Charleston, SC (WBTV) - **Editor's Note: The following is a reporter's notebook from WBTV's Steve Crump with a behind the scene's look at covering the remembrance service for the nine people killed at Mother Emanuel AME Church one year ago.**
Sitting in Charleston's TD Arena, the grief is very real.
More than 2,500 have turned out to honor the Mother Emanuel 9. The crowd is half the size of what it was during a similar prayer service one week after the church shooting.
Having sat in this place a year ago, when President Barack Obama wowed the crowd here with his singing of Amazing Grace, it is easy to tell that there is still a spirit of unity.
Out of the tragedy has emerged a sense of togetherness.
Prayers on this morning have been offered for the nine individuals that lost their life during a night of bible study.
Prayers also came for suspected killer Dylann Roof who was called "a home grown terrorist " by South Carolina State Senator Marlon Kimpson.
Several ministers praised family members of the victims for forgiving Roof.
The gathering at TD arena is expected to be the largest gathering during the ten days of observances to remember the victims.
On Friday afternoon, the faithful will return to Mother Emanuel for a commemorative service. One of the speakers at the service is Reverend Claude Alexander, of Charlotte.
Heading home west on I-26 and it's a flood of mixed emotions.
Charleston and Mother Emanuel have survived another year. But what have we learned over the last 12 months?
Charleston remains in a state of recovery. Charleston remains in search of itself. Charleston remains a place that teaches the world how to give and forgive.
On this first anniversary, it's like the traveling circus has come and gone.
Plenty of local reporters from around the Carolinas, but nobody from CBS, NBC, ABC or CNN for their evening news broadcasts.
What happened in Orlando is well understood, but to sacrifice the good deeds in Charleston is to use a James Brown line "that ain't right."
Was there fear in explaining that Bible study is now a melting pot?
Is it hard to deliver that Charleston managed to keep its cool but places like Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland were looted and burned after police shootings that carried racial overtones?
At the end of the day, Charleston provides a stirring example of how to best keep cooler heads at a time of crisis.
Cities across the so-called new south and elsewhere should take heart and take lessons from a place that offers several meaningful examples that completely cover the water front.