Prayer vigil held at Manassas church for Charleston shooting victims

People are grieving in the D.C. region over the deadly shooting at a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina. A prayer vigil was held at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Manassas.

It was an emotional and tearful gathering Thursday night as people had a hard time dealing with the tragedy, especially because the killings happened in such a sacred place.

"The sense of grief is just so overwhelming," said Valerie Bell. "Pastor [Clementa] Pinckney was a friend and that church is very dear to me. I have lots of friends at Mother Emanuel."

Despite being more than 400 miles from the scene of the mass shooting, some members of this Manassas church have personal ties to South Carolina where nine people were killed.

Everyone felt the pain over the killings that police are calling a hate crime as they say 21-year-old Dylann Roof allegedly targeted the historic black church in downtown Charleston.

"I think it hurts people because if you can't feel safe in your place of worship, then where can you feel safe?" Dana Jordan told us.

Hand in hand, people at the vigil here prayed for the victims and nine candles were lit -- one for each life lost.

"We know that God will heal Emanuel AME Church and the church founder, but he will heal us who are hurting as well," Rev. Tony Boone told the congregation.

The string of mass shootings in the country in recent years begs the question: is there a solution? Is it gun control? On the opposite end of the spectrum, is it arming people like pastors and teachers?

"If the mass murder of little boys and girls did not move us to more gun safety laws, then the murder of innocent black people in a church is not really going to do much either," said Bell.

Another vigil is planned on Friday at noon at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown D.C.