Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church on Sunday, attending regular services with his son Hunter and daughter-in-law Kathleen. The vice-president addressed the congregation for five minutes, saying he and his family wanted to “show our solidarity,” adding, “To be selfish about it, reverend, the reason we came was to draw some strength from all of you, to draw some strength from the church.” Biden discussed the grief of losing his son Beau to brain cancer last month and said he wished he could say something to ease the pain of the victims’ families. “But I know from experience, and I was reminded of it again 29 days ago, that no words can mend a broken heart. No music can fill the gaping void,” Biden said. “At least in my experience, only faith, only faith, and sometimes — as all the preachers in here know — sometimes even faith leaves you, just for a second, sometimes you doubt.”
Biden said he turns to prayer during difficult moments and showed the crowd the rosary beads he wears around his wrist. “There’s a famous expression that says faith sees best in the dark, and for the nine families, this is a very dark, dark time,” he said.
Following the service, Charleston mayor Joe Riley walked with Biden as he viewed the memorials in front of the church, and took him into the basement, where the shooting occurred. Riley said the late Reverend Clementa Pinckney kept a photo of himself posing with Biden, and he took the vice-president into his office to show him the picture. “I just wanted the vice president to know,” Riley said. “I think his heart was warm. I think he was proud.”