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2017-11-22 / Featured

Remember us — the soul of Sutherland Springs

By Rachel Willeford Howe
Special to the Wilson County News


A Christmas tree outside the Sutherland Springs Community Building is adorned with angel ornaments commemorating those who lost their lives in the Nov. 5 shooting at the nearby First Baptist Church. Also among the evergreen boughs are light-bulb ornaments bearing the names of survivors of the horrific event. 
N. KILBEY-SMITH/Reprints at bit.ly/wcnphotos A Christmas tree outside the Sutherland Springs Community Building is adorned with angel ornaments commemorating those who lost their lives in the Nov. 5 shooting at the nearby First Baptist Church. Also among the evergreen boughs are light-bulb ornaments bearing the names of survivors of the horrific event. N. KILBEY-SMITH/Reprints at bit.ly/wcnphotos Most of my life I’ve lived in this tiny town — a town where you can see the stars. A town where everyone is friendly, because everyone is family. A town where anyone would give you the shirt off their back if you asked for it.

When I tell people where I live, it is inevitably followed by one specific question: Where is that?!

I always explain that it is a quiet little town peacefully centered in the middle of nowhere, close enough to the city to not be too remote and far enough away to be peaceful. I always mention that we are comprised of two gas stations, a post office, a handful of houses, and a little Baptist church. The person who asked always heard where I live, and inevitably forgets moments later, because what is there to remember about a little town like that?

It pains me that Sutherland Springs is now on the news for such horror at the little Baptist church which was full of such godly, friendly, beautiful people — the center and soul of our town. It pains me every time I hear “Sutherland Springs” come out of the lips of a politician, a news anchor, an ignorant celebrity. They don’t know us. They don’t understand what Sutherland Springs is. It breaks my heart that my little town — once so easily forgotten — is now nationally known as the location of the worst church massacre in American history, and the worst mass killing in Texas in modern times. I hate it that the people I love, the town I want to raise children in, is stained with that horrific moniker.

I refuse to give that evil man any victory over my town and its future. I refuse to let him change us, stain us. So let me tell you what we should be remembered for.

We should be remembered for the nurse who attended the church, who, even when shot, attended to members of her congregation as she was bleeding. We should be remembered for the mother who died shielding her child from a hail of bullets — who sacrificed her life in the midst of fear, to protect her children.

We should be remembered for the man with medical training who rushed into a church and started pulling people out as soon as the shooter stopped.

We should be remembered for the neighbor who cradled a little girl, shivering in shock, and kept her awake while keeping tears from her eyes. We should be remembered for the neighbors who left their houses and brought water, towels, helping hands, prayers, and comfort to those who survived. We should be remembered for the neighbor who ran to the church, barefoot, with his gun, because his family needed him — and the stranger who let him into his car to chase down this monster.

We should be remembered for the words of hope brought by the pastor and his wife, both of whom had suffered unimaginable loss, both of whom praised God for his goodness and begged the community to trust in His plan.

The names of these heroes, these neighbors, these community members aren’t what is important. Because this is our community — they are our soul. This is all of us. This is what we all did and continue to do.

Because that’s who we are. That is Sutherland Springs. We are not victims. We are survivors. We are faithful. We are family. We are more than the media understands, more than the pathetic celebrities pushing their selfish agendas will ever fathom. We are strong. And we will pull through this.

Don’t remember us for the killer’s evil.

Remember us for who we are — the family of Sutherland Springs.

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