ATLANTA - A Clark Atlanta basketball player will use Senior Day to honor her aunt, who was killed in the Charleston Church shooting in 2015. Nicole Graham will retire a number 9 jersey in honor of the nine people who were victims in the mass shooting.
Her aunt, Cynthia Graham Hurd, was a Clark Atlanta University alumna and one of the nine people taking part in a bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church when the tragedy occurred. Graham is retiring the number 9 jersey instead of her number 23 game jersey. The ceremony will be on Thursday, February 23 at 6pm.
"This means everything to me," said Graham, a first-year graduate student who came to CAU specifically to honor the memory of her fallen aunt. "This is truly a dream come true and I know she would be so proud, and to honor her by playing the game I love means everything in the world to me.”
Vanessa Moore, head CAU Women's Basketball coach, echoed those sentiments.
"When Nicole applied to attend CAU in honor of her aunt, I was drawn to her story," Moore said. "I understood how important it was for her to finish in this place."
Graham said she still thinks about the moment she first learned her aunt was slain in the attack.
"I felt empty, and I was just in disbelief," she continued. "My aunt lost her life for one reason and one reason only, and that is because she was black. That is something I will always struggle with."
On Senior Day, when Graham plays her final home game, she'll do it with "Aunt Cynthia" and the other victims at the top of her mind. And, if she could speak to her aunt just one more time, she would offer a simple message.
"I would just tell her I love her and I'm sorry this happened to her, and I promise to continue to make her proud."
June 17 will mark the two year anniversary of the attack.
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