Veteran and Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church member Ted Montgomery, left, greets members of the St. Mary's ROTC following a Veterans Day event, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A man opened fire inside the church in the small South Texas community on Sunday, killing more than two dozen. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP) — Hundreds of mourners crowded into the tiny town of Sutherland Springs for the first Sunday service since a gunman stormed the First Baptist Church a week earlier, killing more than two dozen people in the worst mass shooting in Texas history.
After an emotional sermon held outdoors under a massive white tent, congregants and the public were invited to return to the church for the first time since the tragedy. A chilling memorial set up inside the church included 26 white chairs — including one for the unborn baby of a victim who was pregnant — bearing each victim’s name or nickname painted in gold.
Pastor Frank Pomeroy shared his personal heartache and a message that the community bound together by faith can move past the evil that attacked the church seven days earlier.
“Rather than choose darkness as that young man did that day, we choose life,” Pomeroy said during the service, his voice cracking as he spoke about his 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, who was among those killed in the Nov. 5 rampage.
“I know everyone who gave their life that day,” he said, pausing to gather himself. “Some of whom were my best friends and my daughter.” He wiped his eyes, then added, “I guarantee they are dancing with Jesus today.”