Memorial service held in remembrance of victims of Texas church shooting

Nov. 5 marks anniversary of Sutherland Springs shooting

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas – The members of the First Baptist Church and the Sutherland Springs community were gathered to remember the victims lost to a gunman who entered a Sunday service at the First Baptist Church, a year ago Monday, killing 26 people, including an unborn child, and wounding 20 others.

Worship Pastor Kris Workman, who organized the event, said it was "not quite" a memorial or a celebration.

"It's really just a remembrance and being joyful and thankful for, you know, the time that we got to spend with those that have passed on, and being joyful and thankful for the way that God has taken our situation and what happened to us and turned it around for his own good and sort of reverberated Sutherland Springs throughout the entire world," he said.

Gov. Greg Abbott made an appearance, as well. Speaking to the crowd, he recalled his visit a year earlier.

"I found that far from the people of Sutherland Springs needing to be inspired, you were inspiring me and inspiring others," Abbott said.

The scene of carnage has since been turned into a white-painted memorial, in which chairs and roses mark where the victims fell. Visitors walked quietly in and out of the building Sunday as the flags flew at half mast outside.

Angie Adams, an EMT-basic with Wilson County, was visiting the church for the first time since its transformation into a memorial, and said it was a "very fitting" tribute

"It was emotional walking in and seeing those chairs and knowing that's where they were at," said Adams, who was part of the second EMS unit to arrive at the scene.

Two of the chairs represented Ricardo and Theresa Rodriguez, a picture of whom adorned the T-shirt of Ricardo's sister, Lupe Navejas, as she waited with numerous other family members for food Sunday.

"It's hard because I'm here and he's not," Navejas said, choked up and teary-eyed. "They're not here, and it's been very hard not seeing him, not talking to him."

"Even though it's been a year, it feels like it just happened yesterday."

Though the memory of the tragedy is unlikely to fade anytime soon, the congregation and the community have started to look toward the future.

Behind the old church, the walls of a new one stand proudly, and like the church sign between them proclaims, "Evil did not win."

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