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A Year Later, Sutherland Springs Struggles To Move Past Deadly Church Shooting

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Virginia Finster
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Contributed Photo
Flags are raised at half staff outside First Baptist Church on November 4th 2018 - one day before the one year anniversary of the shooting.

It has been one year since a gunman killed more than two dozen people during a Sunday service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.

On Sunday, people in Sutherland Springs gathered at the church to remember their friends and family. The temporary sanctuary was full and people in an overflow tent watched and prayed along as the sermon was delivered.

 

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Credit Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
Attendees of Sunday's service in Sutherland Springs watch the sermon from an overflow tent outside the church.

Family and friends have been learning how to cope with the loss of loved ones. For many, what remains is the pain and heartache.

Richard Rodriguez and his wife Therese were killed in the shooting. Richard’s sister Evangelina Santos said it’s been a rough year.

“I feel lost without him,” she said. “We were real close. … So it’s really an emptiness in there because I miss them both. My sister in law was cancer free. And we loved them so.”

Santos was joined by several family members wearing shirts that depicted Richard and Therese.

Some survivors have been left injured or even paralyzed in wheelchairs. David Colbath, a member of the church, was shot multiple times.

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Credit Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
Evangelina Santos and her sister Lupe Navejas speak to the press about their brother Richard Rodriguez and his wife Therese who were both killed in the shooting. They're wearing shirts with their pictures.

“We have looked death in the eye, but we have chose to get up, carry on, build God’s word, build God’s church, and be a part of that in our community,” Colbath said.  

It’s that faith that has kept people going in Sutherland Springs, said Kris Workman, worship leader for First Baptist Church.

“We're not going to let Satan win. He didn't win. So, you know, why shouldn't we continue on the way that we continued on and persevere,” Workman told TPR on Oct. 25. “You don't really gain anything by sitting back and moping and being emotional. …  That's not going to help you. It's not going to help anybody else that's not progress.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott also spoke during Sunday’s service.

“Because instead of having people who were suffering from depression, you have people who are growing and showing people what faith looks like,” he said. “And that is that good will overcome evil, that faith in God is what they need to move forward.”

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Credit Virginia Finster / Contributed photo
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Contributed photo
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, right, talks with shooting survivor Kris Workman at Sunday's remembrance event.

  First Baptist Church Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife Sherri lost their 14-year-old daughter Annabelle in the shooting that day.

“There are times despair in there,” he said. “There are times of heartache and pain, but if we choose to stay there, then we’re just existing. If you want to live and be what God has called you to be, you have to move forward. That doesn’t mean get rid of the memories. It means taking those memories, taking their influence, and incorporating them into who you are and live out your life and be what God’s called you to be.”

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