SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas – A couple who survived the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history shared their story of survival and the horror they said they experienced inside Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church.
Joaquin Ramirez and his wife, Roseanne Solis, made a last-minute decision Sunday to go to church. Ramirez had already taken off his shoes, but Solis insisted they go.
Solis said the church service was like all others they had attended in that everyone was happy. The singing began and the leaders asked everyone to join in. There was the usual greetings and then more singing.
But then their lives changed.
"I hear firecrackers popping. Ta-ta-ta," she remembers. Then someone yelled, warning them to take cover. "Everybody started screaming, yelling. Everyone got down, crawling under wherever they could hide," she said. "It was so scary. He was shooting hard."
Solis was hit in the left shoulder, and she could see the storm of bullets coming in from outside. The storm went on for what seemed like an eternity. Around them, they saw people falling after being hit by shots.
They were bloodied and in shock.
Then there was a brief moment of silence, and the people on the ground wondered what would happen next.
"I thought it was the police when he went inside because everyone got real quiet. Everyone was saying ‘Be quiet. It's him. It's him.’" Then he yelled out, ‘Everybody die [expletive],’ and he started shooting again.
In Spanish, Ramirez explained that the gunman started with the crew in charge of the camera and audio area.
He then moved into the center aisle, toward those at the front of the stage with the music crew. Aisle by aisle, he continued to shoot. He would open fire point-blank on babies who cried.
Solis said she thinks there were about 25 children inside the church at the time of the shooting.
Ramirez said he remembered making eye contact with the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter, who was crying out for help. He signaled with his finger for her to be quiet, because the gunman sought anyone who made a sound and killed them.
“I was praying to go, to save me, because I could see death," Ramirez said.
He crawled out amid the gunfire and smoke and called 911 just before 11:30 a.m.
The couple said it felt like an eternity for an ambulance, police and help to arrive. They drove themselves to the hospital.
"The Lord saved me because I know it was my last day," Solis said.
Both mourn for the victims, but ask for prayers for everyone affected and for people like the gunman. Solis also wants tougher gun control laws.
Her faith was not shaken, but Solis said it will be a long time before she can set foot in the church again.
The shooting at First Baptist Church left 26 people -- ranging in age from 18 month to 77 years old -- dead and 20 wounded, authorities said.
Devin Patrick Kelley, of New Braunfels, has been identified as the gunman.