It was just after 9 p.m. on Wednesday when Charleston County EMS Chief Don Lundy received the call about the deadly shooting at the Emanuel AME Church.
Lundy acted fast, hopping in his truck and driving straight to the scene to help. But there was little he could do. “I was standing outside, and one of the victims was being brought out and treated,” he tells PEOPLE. It was then the other first responders on the scene broke the news to him: Nobody else was coming out alive.
“It was such a letdown. We do this to save lives. To learn that we can’t do this…” Lundy trials off, fighting back tears. “This was a church. I’ve been to bars, hotel rooms, houses They are all tragic. This was much different. I’ve tried to put it into words, and can’t. This was much different. It’s supposed to be a sanctuary, a safe place, the house of worship.”
Dylann Roof is charged with nine counts of murder in the massacre that is being called a hate crime. The 21-year-old sat alongside his victims for an hour during a Bible study before he opened fire on the unwitting parishioners, reportedly telling them: “You’ve raped our women and you’ve stolen and you’ve taken over the country, so this must be done.”
An EMT who asked not to be identified, but was among those who responded to the shooting tells PEOPLE that he’s in “disbelief.”
“I never expected this here. Not in Charleston,” he says. “There was a lot of blood. A lot. You have to block it out in the moment, but you can’t help but see.”
It was clear to him that many of the victims were beyond saving. “You saw that right off,” he says. “We had to determine who we could save.”
He adds: “I said a prayer for them. A lot of prayers. For the person who did this, too. The people who died did nothing wrong. We know where they are now. With God. The person who did this? He has much worse ahead.
“There will be a lot of people in church this Sunday,” he continues. “There always is, but you just watch. The churches will overflow.”
• Reporting by SUSAN KEATING
Individuals who want to donate in memory of the victims of the Charleston church massacre are asked to text “prayforcharleston” to 843-606-5995 or donate online at the Palmetto Project.
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