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Sutherland Springs, Texas is reeling from the loss of so many of their friends and family. Hear in their own words how they’re leaning on each other and honoring the precious lives lost.
USA TODAY

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas – After a week of sorrow and loss, faith and resolve were reaffirmed in a big tent in a little town.

The First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, site of the worst mass shooting in Texas history, held a service Sunday as it has for decades. But this time the congregation gathered in a tent large enough to accommodate nearly everyone in the community and many others from nearby.

“I thank my Lord and my God that those 26 who are no longer with us are dancing in his presence now,” Pastor Frank Pomeroy told the more than 1,000 people who sat or stood through the service in this unincorporated farm and ranch town 30 miles southeast of San Antonio.

Pomeroy never spoke the name of Devin Kelley, 26, who burst into the old church in the center of town during the Nov. 5 service and started firing a semi-automatic rifle at the estimated 50 people inside. His rampage left 25 dead, including a pregnant woman whose baby did not survive, and 20 wounded.

Kelley died later of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a gunfight with two men who pursued him after the church shooting.

The pastor’s voice was calm and steady as he urged people not to lose their faith or surrender to sadness. But when he spoke about the violence that also claimed the life of his 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, Pomeroy showed the strain. 

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“Do not allow the lives that were lost or changed, to be in vain,” he said. Then his voice cracked, and he had to pause. The congregation stood to applaud. He regained his voice: “I know everyone who gave their life that day. Some of them were my best friends – and my daughter.”

The service, conducted in the community athletic fields, conjured images of a tent revival. The altar had a light cross flanked by candles. Rows of white folding chairs were separated by a wide center aisle. Pomeroy and others spoke with a preacher’s cadence, punctuated by spontaneous shouts…