South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who authorized the removal of the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds, said she will be thinking of the nine victims of the Charleston church massacre when the flag comes down Friday.
"No one should ever drive by the statehouse and feel like they don't belong. And so I feel like this is a hopeful day for South Carolina. I think it's a day that we can all say that we have come together as a state," the two-term Republican governor told NBC's Matt Lauer Friday morning. "I think you can look at the way South Carolina responded to this tragedy, and I think we can all say that, hopefully, the Emanuel Nine are looking down and feeling proud today."
The use of the rebel flag has been a top national issue after nine black worshippers were fatally shot at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white male who has confessed to the June 17 massacre, had posed with the Confederate flag in photos beforehand.
South Carolina lawmakers voted to remove the flag from flying at the Capitol grounds in Columbia and Haley signed the bill into law Thursday. The flag came down shortly after 10 a.m., and will be placed at the Confederate Relic Room.
"But there's a place for that flag, and that flag needs to be in a museum, where we will continue to make sure that people can honor it appropriately. But the statehouse — that's an area that belongs to everyone. And no one should ever drive by the statehouse and feel pain," Haley said.
Haley herself has been thrust into the spotlight the last month as her state deals with fallout from the church shooting. There have been suggestions she should be tapped as a candidate for vice president. However, Haley has her mind elsewhere.
"If I do my job right, and that means I need to work harder, the people will talk about the lives of those nine people," Haley said, adding that her state showed the rest of the country "what real love looks like."
"I don't want this to go away quickly. I want people to remember what today feels like and know that anything is possible with us," she added. "So I'll keep my focus on that."