Hundreds attend 1st funerals for church shooting victims

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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- A choir and band launched into one of Ethel Lance's favorite gospel tunes and roused hundreds of mourners from their seats Thursday in a crescendo of music at the first funeral for victims of the massacre at a historic black church.

People stood to clap, nod and sway - some closing their eyes under the exertion of the cathartic singing. Ushers walked through the aisles with boxes of tissues for people to dab their tears. An organ, drums and bass guitar provided the rhythm.

The service was fitting for the 70-year-old Charleston native with "an infectious smile," who served with vigor as an officer at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the congregation's interim pastor said.

"When it was time for the ushers to usher, she had the usher strut," the Rev. Norvel Goff said. "When Sister Lance praised the Lord, you had to strap on your spiritual seat belt."

Hundreds gather to celebrate the life of Ethel Lance:

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Ethel Lance funeral - Charleston, SC shooting (to be updated with more funerals)
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Hundreds attend 1st funerals for church shooting victims
Brandon Risher, left, is pulled away by a friend as he cries over the casket of his grandmother, Ethel Lance, following her burial service, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. Lance was one of the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last week in Charleston. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Pallbearers release doves over the casket of Ethel Lance during her burial service, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. Lance was one of the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last week. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
The Rev. Al Sharpton, right, watches as the casket of Ethel Lance is carried to a hearse following her funeral service, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in North Charleston, S.C. Lance was one of the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last week in Charleston. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Mourners gather before the funeral service for Ethel Lance, one of the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last week in Charleston, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Gary Washington, center, the son of Ethel Lance, is embraced following his her burial service, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. Lance was one of the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last week in Charleston. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Sharon Risher attends the funeral service for her mother, Ethel Lance, 70, who was one of nine victims of a mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, during her funeral service at Royal Missionary Baptist Church, on June 25, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Suspected shooter Dylann Roof, 21 years old, is accused of killing the nine people on June 17th during a prayer meeting in the church, which is one of the nation's oldest black churches. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The Rev. Al Sharpton, center right, and Rev. Jesse Jackson, center, stand over the casket of Ethel Lance during her funeral service, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in North Charleston, S.C. Lance was one of the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last week in Charleston. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Sharon Risher, center right, and Gary Washington, left, stand over the casket of their mother, Ethel Lance, following her burial service, the first one for the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A mourner carries a program while walking in for for the funeral service for Ethel Lance, 70, one of the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last week in Charleston, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A mourner touches the hearse carrying the casket of Ethel Lance following her funeral service, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in North Charleston, S.C. Lance was one of the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last week in Charleston. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Mourners gather before the funeral service for Ethel Lance, one of the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last week in Charleston, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Gary, right, and Aurelia Washington, the son and granddaughter of Ethel Lance, raise their fists while standing next to her casket following her burial service, the first one for the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
The casket holding Emanuel AME Church shooting victim Ethel Lance is moved into position ahead of her funeral at the Royal Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, South Carolina, June 25, 2015. (Photo by Jim Watson, AFP/Getty Images)
Gary Washington holds up a rose before placing it on the casket of his mother, Ethel Lance, following her burial service, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. Lance was one of the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last week. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 25: Doves are released over the casket of Ethel Lance, 70, before she is buried at the AME Church cemetery, she was one of nine victims of a mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church who are being laid to rest on June 25, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Suspected shooter Dylann Roof, 21 years old, is accused of killing the nine people on June 17th during a prayer meeting in the church, which is one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Gary L. Washington (R), son of Emanuel AME Church shooting victim Ethel Lance, hugs one of Lance's granddaughters, during her burial at the Emanuel AME Church Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina, June 25, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
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Police officers stood guard and checked bags as mourners filed in.

Despite pleas to withhold debate until after the funerals, the South Carolina governor's call to remove the Confederate flag from in front of the Statehouse in response to the killings was reverberating around the South. A growing number of leading politicians said Civil War symbols should be removed from places of honor, despite their integral role as elements of southern identity.

Some authorities have worried openly about a backlash as people take matters into their own hands.

"Black Lives Matter" was spray-painted on a monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday, only the latest statue to be defaced. On Tuesday and Wednesday, African-American churches in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Macon, Georgia were intentionally set afire.

But in Charleston, the early gestures of forgiveness by the victims' families toward a shooting suspect who embraced the Confederate flag set a healing tone that has continued through a series of unity rallies, drawing thousands of people intent on leaving no room for racial hate.

"A hateful, disillusioned young man came into the church filled with hate ... and the reaction was love," Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said at the day's second funeral, held for Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45. "He came in with symbols of division. The confederate battle flag is coming down off our state capitol."

Hundreds gather to celebrate the life of Sen. Clementa Pickney:

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Sen. Clementa Pinckney funeral - Charleston, SC shooting
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Hundreds attend 1st funerals for church shooting victims
Pallbearers carry the casket of Sen. Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine killed in last week's shooting, into Emanuel AME Church for his wake, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. The first funerals of some of those slain began Thursday at nearby churches with a viewing for Pinckney inside Emanuel on Thursday evening. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy at Pinckney's funeral Friday at a nearby college arena. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
An image of Sen. Clementa Pinckney decorates the cover of a program distributed to mourners before his funeral service, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy at Pinckney's funeral Friday at College of Charleston's TD Arena near the Emanuel AME Church, the scene of last week's shooting. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Mourners attend the funeral service for Sen. Clementa Pinckney, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. Thousands of mourners gathered to hear President Barack Obama pay tribute to the Rev. Clementa Pinckney and eight parishioners of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The nine were shot dead at the church during a Bible study session last week in what authorities are investigating as a racially motivated attack.(AP Photo/David Goldman)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 26: Mourners pay their respects at the funeral service for Sen. Clementa Pinckney at the College Charleston TD Arena for South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney who was killed during the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church along with eight others on June 26, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Suspected shooter Dylann Roof, 21 years old, is accused of killing nine people on June 17th during a prayer meeting in the church, which is one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston. (Photo by Grace Beahm-Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 26: Members of the clergy wait to enter the funeral service where U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy for South Carolina State senator and Rev. Clementa Pinckney who was killed along with eight others in a mass shooting June 26, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Suspected shooter Dylann Roof, 21, is accused of killing nine people on June 17th during a prayer meeting in the church, which is one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 26: Mourners sing gospel hymns during the funeral service where U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy for South Carolina State senator and Rev. Clementa Pinckney who was killed along with eight others in a mass shooting June 26, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Suspected shooter Dylann Roof, 21, is accused of killing nine people on June 17th during a prayer meeting in the church, which is one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 26: Mourners pray as thousands begin to fill the College Charleston TD Arena on June 26, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy for one of the victims, Sen. Clementa Pinckney, during his funeral Friday at TD Arena. Suspected shooter Dylann Roof, 21 years old, is accused of killing nine people on June 17th during a prayer meeting in the church, which is one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston. (Photo by Grace Beahm-Pool/Getty Images)
Doris Simmons, of Charleston, S.C. stands across the street from Emanuel AME Church, the scene of last week's mass shooting, as the sun rises Friday, June 26, 2015, in Charleston. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy for one of the victims, Sen. Clementa Pinckney, during his funeral Friday at a nearby college arena. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 26: Mourners hug before the funeral begins at the College Charleston TD Arena where President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver the eulogy for South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney who was killed during the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church along with eight others on June 26, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Suspected shooter Dylann Roof, 21 years old, is accused of killing nine people on June 17th during a prayer meeting in the church, which is one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
An image of Sen. Clementa Pinckney decorates the cover of a program as mourners embrace before his funeral service, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy at Pinckney's funeral Friday at College of Charleston's TD Arena near the Emanuel AME Church, the scene of last week's shooting. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
An usher talks to a woman before the funeral service for Sen. Clementa Pinckney, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy at Pinckney's funeral Friday at College of Charleston's TD Arena near the Emanuel AME Church, the scene of last week's shooting. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Krislynn Rambert, of Charleston, S.C., wears a button in memory of the victims of last week's mass shooting while waiting on line to enter Sen. Clementa Pinckney's funeral service, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy at Pinckney's funeral at a nearby college arena. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
RIDGELAND, SC - JUNE 25: Visitors stand in line to pay their respects during an open viewing for Rev. Clementa Pinckney at St. John A.M.E. Church, the church Pinckney attended while growing up, June 25, 2015 in Ridgeland, South Carolina. Pinckney, who was also a state senator, was one of the nine victims killed in last week's shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
RIDGELAND, SC - JUNE 25: Visitors line up to pay their respects during an open viewing for Rev. Clementa Pinckney at St. John A.M.E. Church, the church Pinckney attended while growing up, June 25, 2015 in Ridgeland, South Carolina. Pinckney, who was also a state senator, was one of the nine victims killed in last week's shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 24: South Carolina Highway Patrol Honor Guard rehearse for the arrival of the coffin of church pastor and South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney to lie in the Statehouse Rotunda on June 24, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Pinckney was one of nine people killed during a Bible study inside Emanuel AME church in Charleston. U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to attend the funeral which is set for Friday June 26 at the TD Arena. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 24: People file past the open casket of church pastor and South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney who will lie in repose at the Statehouse Rotunda on June 24, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Pinckney was one of nine people killed during a Bible study inside Emanuel AME church in Charleston. U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to attend the funeral which is set for Friday June 26 at the TD Arena. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIDGELAND, SC - JUNE 25: Visitors sign a guest book before attending an open viewing for Rev. Clementa Pinckney at St. John A.M.E. Church, the church Pinckney attended while growing up, June 25, 2015 in Ridgeland, South Carolina. Pinckney, who was also a state senator, was one of the nine victims killed in last week's shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Clementa Pinckney, the South Carolina State Senator who was killed during last week's shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, lies in state inside the rotunda of the capitol building Wednesday, June 24, 2015 in Columbia, S.C. (Gerry Melendez/The State/TNS via Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 24: People file past the open casket of church pastor and South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney who will lie in repose at the Statehouse Rotunda on June 24, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Pinckney was one of nine people killed during a Bible study inside Emanuel AME church in Charleston. U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to attend the funeral which is set for Friday June 26 at the TD Arena. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 24: People file past the open casket of church pastor and South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney who will lie in repose at the Statehouse Rotunda on June 24, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Pinckney was one of nine people killed during a Bible study inside Emanuel AME church in Charleston. U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to attend the funeral which is set for Friday June 26 at the TD Arena. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A detail from South Carolina Department of Public Safety carries the casket of Sen. Clementa Pinckney into the South Carolina State House on June 24, 2015 in Columbia, S.C. (Tracy Glantz/The State/TNS via Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 24: The South Carolina Statehouse is seen as the coffin of church pastor and South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney lies in state on June 24, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Pinckney was one of nine people killed during a Bible study inside Emanuel AME church in Charleston. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 24: People wait in line to pay their respects before the coffin of church pastor and South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney arrives to lie in the Statehouse Rotunda on June 24, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Pinckney was one of nine people killed during a Bible study inside Emanuel AME church in Charleston. U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to attend the funeral which is set for Friday June 26 at the TD Arena. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 24: People wait in line to pay their respects before the coffin of church pastor and South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney arrives to lie in the Statehouse Rotunda on June 24, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Pinckney was one of nine people killed during a Bible study inside Emanuel AME church in Charleston. U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to attend the funeral which is set for Friday June 26 at the TD Arena. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A South Carolina Highway Patrol honor guard carries Sen. Clementa Pinckney's casket to the Statehouse, Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. Pinckney's open coffin was being put on display under the dome where he served the state for nearly 20 years. He was one of those killed in a mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.(AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
A South Carolina Highway Patrol honor guard carries Sen. Clementa Pinckney's casket to the Statehouse, Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. Pinckney's open coffin was being put on display under the dome where he served the state for nearly 20 years. Pinckney was one of those killed in a mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Sen. Clementa Pinckney's body arrives by horse drawn carriage at the South Carolina Statehouse, Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. Pinckney's open coffin was being put on display under the dome where he served the state for nearly 20 years. Pinckney was one of those killed in a mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 24: As lawmakers, family and friends look on, the South Carolina Highway Patrol Honor Guard carry the coffin of church pastor and South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney to lie in repose at the Statehouse Rotunda on June 24, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Pinckney was one of nine people killed during a Bible study inside Emanuel AME church in Charleston. U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to attend the funeral which is set for Friday June 26 at the TD Arena. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 24: People wait in a long line to enter the Capitol building to pay their respects to church pastor and South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney who will lie in repose at the Statehouse Rotunda on June 24, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Pinckney was one of nine people killed during a Bible study inside Emanuel AME church in Charleston. U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to attend the funeral which is set for Friday June 26 at the TD Arena. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 24: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley looks on as she stands with other lawmakers as South Carolina Highway Patrol Honor Guard prepare to carry the coffin of church pastor and South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney to lie in repose at the Statehouse Rotunda on June 24, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Pinckney was one of nine people killed during a Bible study inside Emanuel AME church in Charleston. U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to attend the funeral which is set for Friday June 26 at the TD Arena. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 24: South Carolina state legislators watch as the procession carrying the casket of Rev. Clementa Pinckney moves down Main Street before a public viewing at the South Carolina State House June 24, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Pinckney was one of nine people killed during a Bible study inside Emanuel AME church in Charleston. U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to attend the funeral which is set for Friday June 26 at the TD Arena. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Emanuel AME Church pastor and South Carolina State Sen.Clementa Pinckney's wife Jennifer (C), and two daughters Eliana and Malana, stand in a receiving line at the South Carolina State House on June 24, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Pinckney was one of nine people killed during a Bible study inside Emanuel AME church in Charleston. Pressure is growing in South Carolina to take down the Confederate flag that has flies on the front lawn of its State House in Columbia, also alongside a Confederate war memorial. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 24: The family of Rev. Clementa Pinckney greets visitors after paying their respects during an open viewing for Pinckney at the South Carolina State House June 24, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Pinckney was one of nine people killed during a Bible study inside Emanuel AME church in Charleston. U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to attend the funeral which is set for Friday June 26 at the TD Arena. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
South Carolina Highway Patrol honor guard stand over Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s body as members of the public file past in the Statehouse, Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver the eulogy at Pinckney's funeral Friday morning at the College of Charleston. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
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Before the second service, more than 100 members of Coleman-Singleton's Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority formed a ring around the main part of the large sanctuary as part of an Ivy Beyond the Wall ceremony. One by one, the women, clad all in white, filed past the open casket with green ivy leaves, then clasped hands and sang.

Funerals for the other victims were set to happen over the next week, including one Friday for Emanuel's lead pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, where President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy.

Gov. Nikki Haley eulogized Coleman-Singleton, commending her desire to help others.

Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton attended as well, and referred to Dylann Storm Roof, the 21-year-old white man facing nine murder charges. Sharpton recalled how he spent the morning of June 17 watching Loretta Lynch be sworn in as the nation's first black female attorney general.

"That morning, I saw how far we have come," Sharpton said. "That night, I saw how far yet we have to go."

Authorities said Lance and Coleman-Singleton had welcomed the gunman into their Bible study, where he sat among them for nearly an hour before opening fire.

Lance had served as a sexton at Emanuel for the last five years, helping to keep the historic building clean. She loved gospel music, watched over a family that grew to include her five children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, and pushed them to earn advanced degrees.

"I want my grandmother's legacy to be what she stood for," said granddaughter Aja Risher. "She is going to be a catalyst for change in this country."

Haley started the groundswell against Confederate icons Monday by successfully calling on South Carolina lawmakers to debate taking down the Confederate battle flag flying in front of the Statehouse. Then Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, also a conservative Republican, brought down four secessionist flags at the Capitol in Montgomery.

Bentley compared the banner to the universally shunned symbols of Nazi Germany, a stunning reversal in a region where the Confederacy was formed 154 years ago and where Jefferson Davis was elected president. By Wednesday, the mayor in Memphis, Tennessee was calling for the grave and statue of Confederate General and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest to be removed from a city park.

The suspected gunman appears with a Confederate license plate, waving a Confederate flag, burning and desecrating U.S. flags, posing at Confederate museums and with the wax figures of slaves on a website created in his name months before the attacks.

Attorney Boyd Young, who represents Roof's family, issued a statement saying they will answer questions later, but want to allow the victims' families to grieve. "We feel it would be inappropriate to say anything at this time other than that we are truly sorry for their loss," the statement said.

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Alan Suderman from Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this report.

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