Survivor: Dylann Roof 'Caught Us With Eyes Closed'

'He should have to think about this the rest of his life,' says Polly Sheppard
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 10, 2015 8:51 AM CDT

Felicia Sanders says she had just bowed her head in prayer when it happened. Dylann Roof, whom the Bible study group in Charleston had welcomed with open arms, opened fire, killing nine black parishioners. Only Sanders, her 11-year-old granddaughter, and another woman, Polly Sheppard, were left alive. "We were just about to say the prayer to be released," Sanders tells NBC News' Lester Holt. Then, "it sounded like a transformer blew," she says. "He caught us with our eyes closed." Sanders next recalls the horror of watching her dying son, Tywanza, 26, crawl across the church floor in an attempt to protect another young relative. "What I think of Tywanza, those last moments—my hero. My hero," she says. "He took a lot of bullets."

Despite the memory, Sanders says she can forgive Roof. But "I would like to ask him why," she says. "If we were so nice to you, why did you do it?" Sheppard, too, says, "I have to forgive him ... I'm going to try to get better from this." And though prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Roof, Sheppard says she hopes he gets life in prison. "I believe he should have to think about this the rest of his life," she say. "He's got a long time, if he's healthy. I believe in repentance." As for Sanders, she's going to all Roof's court appearances. "I want Dylann to see my face. I want Dylann to hear Tywanza's voice all the days of his life," she says. But whatever the sentence, she'll accept it. "Nobody gave him the death penalty, neither life in prison," she say. "He did it to himself. He didn't have to do it." (Read more Dylann Roof stories.)

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