Who Was Cynthia Hurd? The Librarian Was An Active Member Of Emanuel AME Church Dedicated To Helping Her Community
On Wednesday evening at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, in South Carolina, three men and six women were shot dead by a 21-year-old man identified as Dylann Storm Roof. One of the victims was Cynthia Hurd, 54, described by family, friends, and Charleston natives as a passionate librarian dedicated to contributing to her community. A loving wife, sister, and mother, Hurd would have turned 55 on Sunday.
Hurd attended Johnson C. Smith University, and later became the manager of one of the "busiest libraries in Charleston County." The library's spokesperson, Jaime Thomas, who was also a friend to Hurd, released the following statement on Thursday:
Cynthia was a tireless servant of the community who spent her life helping residents, making sure they had every opportunity for an education and personal growth.
Hurd dedicated 31 years of service to the Charleston Public Library, managing its two facilities and providing coworkers like Kim Odom with wisdom and insight. Odom described her experiences with Hurd to the Post and Courier:
She really opened up to me what library service meant. ... (It’s) not just a building where you come for storytime but a place where you really can get help ... whether it is helping someone with a resume or helping them use a computer a little bit better.
Hurd has also served on the Charleston Housing Authority’s board since 1995. Don Cameron, the board's director, said of her, also to the Post and Courier:
She was very willing to pose tough questions, but also was someone who loved to laugh.
Hurd was the loving wife of Steve Hurd, a longshoreman according to her brother, who spoke with the Charlotte Observer. Her brother claimed that Steve was based in Saudi Arabia at the time and heard about events in Charleston via the media. Her husband immediately called her cell phone, which she did not pick up, the Observer reports.
Hurd's younger brother is Malcolm Graham, a former state senator of North Carolina based in Charlotte. Graham told the Observer that after their mother died 15 years ago, Hurd became a mother-figure to him. "She was just a beautiful person ... she didn't deserve it," Graham said of his sister while sobbing, according to the newspaper. Hurd, Graham, and their sister and three brothers attended Emanuel AME Church throughout their childhood, where their mother sang in the church's choir, and according to Graham, Hurd herself was very active. "It was home to us ... It would be typical of her to be there. The last anyone heard, she was going to church," Graham told the newspaper. Hurd encouraged her brother throughout his political career as he ran for public office. Graham affectionately described his sister as a "nerd."
The last time Graham saw his sister was in May at his daughter's college graduation. The last time he spoke to her by phone was the day before the shooting. Graham told the Charlotte Observer her last words to him were: "Don't look back. Move forward."
Graham released this statement on Thursday:
My sister, Ms. Cynthia Marie Graham-Hurd, was a victim of the senseless hate crime at Emanuel AME Church. It is unimaginable that she would walk into church and not return. But that's who she was – a woman of faith. This is a very difficult time for our family, and Cynthia will be sorely missed. Our family is close-knit, and our faith will see us through. I also extend condolences to the other families of Emanuel AME Church and the city of Charleston who have been affected by this inconceivable tragedy.
My family and I appreciate the thoughts and prayers from people across North Carolina and South Carolina.
Graham also talked to the Charlotte Observer about the need for a national discussion about "guns in America" and "mental health," as he reflected on President Obama's comments earlier that day on gun reform. An interview with Hurd's other brother, Melvin Graham, in which he, too, reflects on the need for gun control, can be viewed below. Mournful, Melvin expressed doubts about gun control actually being implemented and implied desire for the shooter to face the death penalty.
According to the Charlotte Observer, Hurd's neighbors were shocked by her death. On the street Hurd grew up, one lady described her as "wonderful ... smart, quiet, a hard worker," while her mail carrier described her as "pleasant" and "a lovely lady." On Thursday, all branches of the St. Andrews and John L. Dart libraries were closed in Hurd's honor. Charleston County officials have the St. Andrews Regional Library will be renamed in her honor as well.
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