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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas tragedy prompts togetherness

The+First+Baptist+Church+of+Sutherland+Springs+has+been+transformed+into+a+memorial.+The+congregation+has+been+meeting+in+a+temporary+building+until+the+new+church+is+built.

The First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs has been transformed into a memorial. The congregation has been meeting in a temporary building until the new church is built.

The 26 white crosses along the road. The fence covered in encouraging messages. The original church stripped of its pews, painted white and replaced with chairs and roses to represent each victim. Every one of these memorials partners with the faith of the congregation and community, pushing them to move forward, reminding them of the brighter future ahead.
On Nov. 5, 2017, lives were shattered after a gunman opened fire on the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs during their Sunday morning service, killing 26 people. As the deadliest shooting in modern Texas history, the event became a focal point throughout the United States.
Institutions and individuals from across the nation have rallied around the congregation and are assisting in rebuilding the church. Bradford Beldon, roofing company owner, started a GoFundMe two days after the shooting and has raised over $1 million for the new building. Myrick Gurosky and Associates are designing the new church, while the North American Mission Board is paying for any construction and design costs not covered by donations. Church members are using a temporary building to meet for service until the new one is built.
Scott Gurosky, president of Myrick Gurosky and Associates, said the company has been involved in many types of projects and specializes in church development. According to Gurosky, working on designs for the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs has been different from any other project due to how recent the tragedy took place and the strong emotional aspect of the situation.
“This just happened in November, it’s not like it happened years ago,” Gurosky said. “It’s still fresh. With every client, the first thing we try to do is determine what the needs are for the church. It’s different in this scenario because the need is so obvious but there are a lot of things that need to be gone through and dealt with … There is a much deeper meaning and sense behind this building than just bricks and mortar and architecture.”
On the day of the shooting, Sutherland Springs resident Stephen Willeford ran to the church with his AR-15 when his daughter told him she heard gunshots. Willeford called out to the shooter from across the road, drawing him out of the church. After shots were exchanged, the perpetrator drove away and Willeford got into a truck with a local responder who was passing by to chase after the gunman for 11 miles. The shooter pulled over on the right side of the road and Willeford stood nearby with his gun until police arrived, finding the shooter had committed suicide.
Before the shooting, Willeford was not a member of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs but had been involved with the congregation for years through volunteer projects. After the tragedy, he said he has attended their services more frequently.
“We’re rebuilding and there’s more people in the pews at the church now than there were before,” Willeford said. “This incident has brought people together and brought people to worship in that church. I know my neighbors even more now. We’re even closer. The town is rebuilding and it’s going to be a better place than it was before and it was already the best place in the world.”
Willeford said there has been an overwhelming amount of support from around the world in the form of prayers, letters of support and donations to cover the cost of funerals, college funds for young survivors and the rebuilding of the church. Willeford said while all of these actions are incredible, he thinks people can also help simply by learning from the community in Sutherland Springs.
“It’s amazing how Sutherland Springs supports each other,” Willeford said. “I keep getting asked, ‘What can America do for Sutherland Springs?’ This has become my theme: what America can do for Sutherland Springs is be more like them. Be more like the community that came together in tragedy, pulled together and worshipped God.”
The official design for the church and plans for the future will be announced at a press conference in San Antonio, Texas, on Tuesday, according to Gurosky.
“I think it’s a big milestone for the country,” Gurosky said. “I think it’s a big milestone for the church especially, but it goes well beyond that because it’s a victory. They didn’t succumb to this, they stood above it. We are big believers that God is still in control and has a plan for this church and it’s going to be a glorious thing when it’s built.”

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  • Wooden crosses stand as memorials near the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, decorated with photos and memorabilia of the church members who died.

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