By Michaela Gates, Staff Writer
26 attendees of Sunday Mass at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, were tragically killed on November 5. It’s a small rural town, with a population of 360 and only a handful of small businesses, which makes the tragedy that occurred there even more shocking. But a week later, on November 12, Sunday Service was held again, in the local baseball field, in honor of the community members that were lost to senseless violence.
It’s a testament to the strength of a community that so soon after friends and family are taken that they can gather together again, looking to each other and to their faith for strength.
Nine days later, on November 14, a gunman attacked an elementary school in Rancho Tehama, California, killing five adults and wounding ten others. Thankfully, no children were harmed, but it’s a cold comfort.
America’s level of gun violence is massive compared to other countries. 2016’s Pulse Nightclub massacre was the former greatest loss of life in a mass shooting, but this fall’s Las Vegas Strip shooting killed nine more innocent people and wounded 546 others. Mother Jones counts seven instances of mass shootings in 2017 alone, with three of them occurring in November. Since the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2013, which is unique in the depths of its evil, there have been 33 mass shootings, with about 270 victims shared between them.
I have lived with an anxiety disorder all my life, since I was very young. What that means for me is that I am at least somewhat aware, at all times, of the potential for violence in other people. It’s not ideal, but I’m used to it, at least. But with that kind of mindset, you place important emphasis on a lot of things, especially instances of violence.
I remember learning about the Columbine shooting in junior high, long after it had occurred, and being afraid for my classmates and teachers, that it could happen at my school. I remember reading about the Aurora Mall shooting in the newspaper the morning after it happened, and realizing that I go to movie theaters, too.
Even so, I cannot comprehend what happens to a person if they experience a shooting, whether they survive it directly or lose people who are important to them. The Holcombe family of Sutherland Springs lost eight members. I cannot begin to imagine how the family’s survivor, Joe Holcombe, must feel. I can only imagine what the church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy, must feel to see his congregation missing valued members.
Sutherland Springs is a marvel, though, and what they demonstrated with their memorial service is an incredible bravery. Living in this country gives me a great fear of violence, yet only a week after their community was wounded, they found the courage to return to their church. I can only think that’s because the people they lost, and the people around them now, gives them so much strength.
America can’t allow these acts of violence to continue. Too many people die needlessly from violent men with guns.
There is something deeply evil in our country that allows these men to keep spawning and finding arms.
But the community of Sutherland Springs, which is recovering from tragedy through the love and generosity of its members, is a model for how we as a nation can recover from this sickness.