Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a sanctuary shattered by one of the deadliest church shootings in U.S. history, became the place many of the victims’ families returned to bury their loved ones.

On Friday, three consecutive visitations were held in the historic church known as Mother Emanuel, which President Obama referred to as “a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founders sought to end slavery only to rise up again, a phoenix from these ashes.”

Obama called the church, “the beating heart” of a community … “where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way and told that they are beautiful and smart and taught that they matter.”

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Emanuel was a “sacred place” whose members held steadfast against segregation laws, banning all-black church gatherings.

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Throughout its history, services continued at Emanuel “in defiance of unjust laws.” Obama said.

From its pulpit, Martin Luther King Jr. preached. From its steps, civil rights marches began.

And this week, it was to the doors of Mother Emanuel, where many of those faithful members who were slain while attending that fateful Bible study, returned one last time.

Dylann Roof, 21, an avowed white supremacist, is accused of shooting and killing nine church members attending Bible study in the fellowship hall on June 17. Roof, who was arrested June 18, in Shelby, N.C., was charged with nine counts of murder and possessing a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.

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The visitation for Susie Jackson began at 5 p.m. Friday. It was followed two hours later with the visitation for her nephew Tywanza Sanders, 26.

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An hour and a half later was the visitation for Cynthia Hurd, who usually didn’t make it to Wednesday night Bible study meetings because she often worked late at the library a few doors down Calhoun Street from the church. Hurd’s funeral was scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at the church.

Families of Sanders and Jackson decided to hold joint funeral services at 2 p.m. Saturday at Emanuel.

Sanders, had tried to save his “Auntie” Susie, 87, the oldest member attending the Bible study that night.

On Sunday, the visitation for Myra Thompson is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Emanuel. Thompson’s funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at the church.

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The last of the Emanuel Nine is scheduled to be buried Thursday.

The funeral service of Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., who tried to save his pastor from the shooter, is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Thursday at Bethel AME Church in Columbia, S.C.

(Services for Ethel Lance and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton were held earlier this week, on Thursday. The Reverend Clementa Pinckney’s funeral, which Obama eulogized, was Friday.)

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