CHARLESTON—Banners with messages of love and grace adorned buildings around Marion Square shortly after the tragic events at Emanuel AME Church, thanks to a heroic effort from the Knights of Columbus.
The words were simple but profound.
“Mother Emanuel, We Love You” read the message from Bennett Hospitality. “No matter how dark the nights, the day is sure to come,” said the College of Charleston. “Holy City, let us be the example of love that conquers evil — United in Faith” were banners hung on St. Matthew Lutheran and Citadel Baptist churches.
George Seago, immediate past Grand Knight of Council 704, based on Calhoun Street in downtown Charleston, helped make the banners a reality.
After the shootings on June 17, Seago said in an interview that he knew it was important to show the members of Emanuel AME and others in downtown Charleston that their neighbors were standing with them in the face of unspeakable sadness and tragedy.
The idea for the banners first emerged the day after the shootings.
“Everyone was horrified by what happened, and we wanted the people of Emanuel to know that we felt for them,” Seago said. “We wanted to find a way to reach out, to do the Christian thing and show a positive message from we, the people of Charleston.”
Seago said he was amazed by the quick response not only from the pastors of other nearby churches but by business owners who immediately agreed to fly the banners in support.
Wording for the banners ranged from passages of Scripture to quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.
Seago contacted 360 Digital Media, a company in Greenville, that assured him the banners would be ready by the evening of June 19.
After the printing job was confirmed, he called fellow Knights from Greenville and Columbia to organize drivers, who then met in a chain from Newberry to a location near Charleston to assure that the printed banners made it to the city.
In the pre-dawn hours, other Knights picked them up and worked feverishly with volunteers to climb stairs and rooftops to make sure the banners were flying by the early morning hours of June 20.
The messages decorated the downtown buildings until June 27, when most were taken down. Volunteers guarded them and made sure they stayed in place even during passing storms.
“Some people have said they think the banners suppressed feelings of anger that some people may have felt,” Seago said. “They reminded people that the focus needed to be love — love for the people who died and love for the living. It was a … full-court press to make this happen, and I’m proud of the selflessness of so many people who helped to make it happen.”