Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard said last Wednesday's shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina church, hit close to home. The victims could have easily been someone he knew, he noted as he paid his own respects to the grieving community.
"It hurt to see the things that happened in Charleston," Howard told CNN on Sunday after he visited the site of the shooting, the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and with some of the families of those who died.
"It just broke my heart, because I felt like that could've been me. It could've been my friends, it could've been my pastor. It could've been anybody," Howard said. "And I wanted to be there to show my support, and just to show people that we need change in our society."
Howard attended the Friday night gathering at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of reportedly 1,000 at the site. Nine people died from Wednesday's shooting at the church and a tenth person was injured. The accused shooter, Dylann Roof, 21, was apprehended following the massacre and is currently in custody facing nine counts of murder as well as a weapons charge, The Associated Press reported.
Howard, a 29-year-old son of a police officer, met with Chris Singleton, a baseball player at Charleston Southern whose mother, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was killed in the attack.
On Sunday, Howard also discussed the Charleston shooting in the context of his Breathe Again campaign, which he started this past January as an organizational means of starting a grassroots movement for race-based social change.
“My mission is just to change people’s lives,” Howard said to CNN. “All of us as a society, we need to breathe again. We need to step back and take a look at ourselves and our lives. If we want change, we need to be that change."
He continued, "We’ve got to have hope. We need some type of hope, some type of bright light to make us want to move forward. I just feel like there’s so much hate in the world that needs to stop.”