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Sutherland Springs Finds Hope And Healing In Year Following Deadly Church Shooting

RECONSTRUCTION — Six months after the tragedy, reporter Joey Palacios began where it all began -- at the church in Sutherland Springs. His reporting illuminated a community aglow with religious faith -- brighter than ever before -- determined to rebuild their lives, and yet refusing to ever forget the lives they left behind, buried in the shadowed past or buried in the hallowed ground.


COMMUNITY — A newsroom-wide special effort was launched in the weeks before the one-year mark. Again, Palacios took the lead in checking in with survivors and relatives of the victims. He told a story of a community struggling with the significance of such a deep and violent loss of loved ones, paranoid of outsiders, resentful of the harsh worldwide spotlight for the worst of reasons.

THE SOURCE — David Martin Davies used his talk-show, "The Source," to ask experts to explain the grieving process Sutherland Springs survivors likely endured and how they might be re-traumatized by news of subsequent shootings in other parts of the nation.


TRAUMA — TPR's Bioscience-Medicine Reporter Bonnie Petrie spoke to one survivor who found happiness and deeper religious faith at the center of the traumatic storm that swirled around him over the past year.


ARTWORK — TPR's Arts and Culture Reporter Jack Morgan explored how art and music was used to express the community's and the nation's sorrow, reflect their religious passions, and illustrate their attempts to heal each other before moving forward.

A NEW SHOOTING — The remembrance of the Sutherland Springs shooting took place in the shadow of another massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and Palacios took a moment to focus the resonance of that incident on the larger symphony of emotions and reflections in the community. The similarities in how lives lost were mourned, how normal minds absorbed the shocking horror of the murderous act and how the political rhetoric never seemed to change were all heartcrushing reminders of the normality of this unique type of American crime.

THE MILITARY — How did Kelly, an Air Force veteran who escaped from a psychiatric prison and was court-martialed for domestic assault, get his hands on weapons in the first place? TPR's military reporter Carson Frame explored that issue and reported for "American Homefront" that the Air Force never entered his criminal history into the FBI's background check system. Consequently, several families were suing the military. Frame offered a detailed and nuanced exploration of the legal and bureaucratic complexities undergirding the tragedy. 


LOOPHOLE — Davies partnered Frame's piece with a special report on Form 4473, which gun buyers must complete when they purchase a weapon from a dealer with a federal firearms license. Once completed, the information enters the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Lying on the form, as Kelly did when he purchased his weapon, could lead to a decade in prison, and yet nothing happened to Kelly. Davies explored the reasons why, where the cracks in the system exist, and the debate over how to resolve weaknesses that, in this case, led to more than two dozen deaths.

POLITICS AND THE FUTURE — The echoes of the gun control debate were never more vividly resonant as they were in the months after Sutherland Springs. They remained clanging warnings of another potential tragedy through the 2018 midterm elections and in the weeks leading up to the 2019 Texas legislative session, which now confronts re-energized debates over how to keep schools safe, armed teachers, stronger gun sale laws, and potential reconsideration of the role of guns in overall conservative Texas identity.