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Pence Visits Site Of Texas Shooting; Abbott Declares 'We Will Not Be Overcome By Evil'

This story was updated 12:15 p.m.

On a field that’s normally the sight of Friday night football games, family members of Sutherland Springs shooting victims were embraced by music, and words of support from Vice President Mike Pence and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

 

“And even though anguish and sorrow hang over the community,” Abbott said, “we will not be overcome by evil.

"Together we will overcome evil with good.”

Pence recounted the lives of those killed Sunday at First Baptist Church.

“Among them Haley Krueger, who even though just 16 years of age, already knew she wanted to be a neonatal nurse and care for the most vulnerable in society,” he said. “Shani and Robert Corrigan — a 30-year veteran of the United States Air Force.”

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Credit Lynda Gonzalez / KUT
A prayer vigil was held Wednesday in Floresville for the victims of the Sutherland Springs shooting.

The stands were full, at least 2,000 people came to pay their respects. Many from Wilson County; others from San Antonio. Some lifted their hands in prayer and hugged one another.

“We’re a small community first but the most important thing is we’re family,” said Carla Sikkema of Floresville. “You can’t even go to our local grocery store because an employee there ... is no longer so it’s affected our community throughout.”

Sikkema is an trauma nurse in the intensive care unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

“They’re strong; they’re survivors; they’re prayerful,” she said. “It’s incredible but at the same time to see the victims still feeling that they’re right there and that it’s happening all over again; it’s scary.”

She said her two 7-year-old children lost a friend from their second-grade class. It’s a difficult conversation she never thought she’d have but she tells her girls their friend is with God.

“Because we’re Christians, we know that there’s a heaven and that we know that at some point in time we’re  all going to go to see Jesus,” she said.

There’s been a prayer vigil every night since Sunday, when more than 10 percent of tiny Sutherland Springs’s population was either killed or injured. Shirley Filoteo is one of the roughly 400 people who live there and said she’s been to three vigils so far.

“Our community still needs to be healed,” she said.

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Credit Lynda Gonzalez
Vice President Mike Pence attended a prayer vigil Wednesday in Floresville for the victims of the Sutherland Springs shooting.

Filoteo lives a half mile from the church and says the shooting has left a massive hole in town’s heart.

“Something like that — so evil — happened to so many good people that were worshiping God. You can’t get more evil than that,” she said.

Family members of the victims didn’t speak at the vigil, though about two dozen congregated at one end of the football field while the vice president spoke.

Frank Pomeroy is pastor of First Baptist. He wasn’t there on Sunday, but his 14-year-old daughter Anabelle Pomeroy was, and died in the shooting. He says Wednesday’s vigil was proof that, despite the immeasurable loss they’ve all suffered, the community’s faith is strong.

“It showed that we live in a country that, though there are many who try to say we are secular, we live in a country that still comes together and prays to an almighty God,” he said.

While they mourn, First Baptist church members are also wondering what will happen to their church.

“We’re playing it day by day right now,” Pomeroy said.

He’s not sure what’ll they’ll do with the building.

“There’s to many that do not want to go back into there,” he said. “I think we’ll probably turn it into a memorial for a while.”

Pomeroy added he still plans to hold services Sunday to help Sutherland Springs residents draw strength from one another and God. But, for now at least, that’ll take place at the community center.

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Credit Lynda Gonzalez / KUT
Floresville residents gathered at a vigil Wednesday for victims of the Sutherland Springs shooting.

Joey Palacios can be reached at joey@tpr.org or on Twitter @joeycules

CORRECTIONS: A quote from Carla Sikkema has been updated; a quote from Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been updated with proper attribution.