Monday November 06, 2017

'We've lost people that we know': Deadly Texas church shooting devastates community

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At least 26 people are dead after a gunman opened fire at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday — the deadliest mass shooting in this state's history.

The victims range in age from 18 months to 77-years-old, and include the 14-year-old daughter of the church's pastor.

About 20 people were wounded in the attack. The gunman has been identified in media reports as 26-year-old Devin Kelley, formerly with the U.S. Air Force. He was shot by a civilian.

Church Shooting Texas

'It's unbelievable to see children, men and women, laying there,' said Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt, Jr. outside of the First Baptist Church after the deadly shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Nov. 5. (Laura Skelding/Associated Press)

The community held a candlelight vigil in front of the church on Sunday, 

"It was a very solemn gathering and very beautiful," says Nannette Kilbey-Smith, the editor of the local Wilson County News.

"It was just an outpouring of love and support and compassion of community members who were gathered not only to support those who were grieving the loss of families but also trying just to gather together to be there for each other in the wake of such an unconscionable act," she tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

Kilbey-Smith has lived in the community for almost 20 years and says living in smaller communities, there's a trust that is established — "so this is just very beyond anyone's experience."

"It was church on a Sunday morning. This is where you go for comfort, for refuge. It's a place of safety."

Parishioner discusses Texas church mass shooting2:48

Kilbey-Smith says there's not one family that hasn't been touched by this tragedy — "not just the Sutherland Springs community but the nearby communities as well."

As a journalist, she tells Tremonti she's praying for guidance to cover this difficult story.

"We'll keep things to the facts and present things as compassionately and sympathetically as possible because again these are people that we know, we've lost people that we know. People that we know are grieving and hurting," Kilbey-Smith explains.

"So we do the best that we can to serve them while serving the wider community."

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Listen to the full conversation above.

This segment was produced by The Current's Karin Marley.