2 years later: KSAT journalist remembers deadly Sutherland Springs shooting

'I looked down to see I was surrounded by bullet casings'

SAN ANTONIOEditor's note: KSAT 12 digital journalist Erica Hernandez remembers the day of the deadly shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. 

As a journalist, you develop a thick skin when covering and writing about bad news daily, but some stories just hit harder than others. For me, that story will always be Sutherland Springs. 

This mass shooting hit really close to home. 

I grew up in Wilson County and most of my family, including my parents, still live there.

Before Nov. 5, 2017, Sutherland Springs was a place many didn't know about, but I did. I had been to and driven through the small community so many times. 

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That morning is one I will never forget. I wasn't even supposed to be there, but my mother enticed my husband and me with a homemade breakfast.

My mom, for as long as I could remember, has been a member of Wilson County EMS. I was used to emergency scanners going off in our home.

But that morning was different. Never had I heard the words "all units needed" come from the scanner.

I instantly knew something was wrong. 

I arrived at the scene well before any other media got there. In fact, some first responders were still arriving. 

A woman who lived directly across the street from the church was in her yard and just staring in disbelief and shock.

She would start talking to me and telling me how she witnessed a man in full tactical gear, and he was shooting all around the church and even at her car and home.

I looked down to see I was surrounded by bullet casings. 

At that point, I just zoned in to do my job as a journalist. I took out my phone and streamed a Facebook live feed on the KSAT page, grabbed photos and video, and started conducting interviews.  

I was there all day and most of the evening before finally leaving. It would be weeks before I would return. 

In the days following, I worked on several stories and interviewed people I knew who were directly impacted. Also, I started to see the toll this tragedy had taken on the people and first responders of Wilson County, my mother included. 

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I kept myself busy covering the story and it would actually be weeks before it would finally hit me. 

I was producing a one-month special and had to go back to Sutherland Springs.

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It was the first time I had been back. As I walked into the entrance of the church, which was now a memorial, I broke down. I tried to cover my emotions and feelings for too long and having to stand in that same location again just finally hit me. 

While I didn't suffer the same hurt and pain so many others did that day, it still affected me so much and no words could erase the heartache so many were going through. 

Two years later and Nov. 5 will always be a horrible reminder of that tragedy that took 26 beautiful lives away from their loved ones.

Many are still trying to heal from that terrible day.

My mother, her colleagues and many other first responders still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by that day. For many, they often refer to what life was like before Nov. 5, 2017, and what life is like after. 

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What makes it easier, at least for myself,  is seeing just how strong members of the church and residents of the area have been.

While the community has been forced to change in many ways, it's amazing to see that their faith remains. 

It will always make me proud to say I'm from Wilson County. 


About the Author:

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with more than 12 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter.