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Texas Community Struggles To Move Past Deadly Church Shooting


So today marks exactly a year since a gunman killed more than two dozen people in Texas. This was during a Sunday service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. It has been a year of recovery and learning how to live without - without family members, without friends, without neighbors. Here's more from Joey Palacios from Texas Public Radio.

JOEY PALACIOS, BYLINE: Sutherland Springs is a tightknit place home to just several hundred people. One of them is Terri Smith (ph), president of the town's community association. She says everyone is like family.

TERRI SMITH: Everybody cares for everybody else. It doesn't matter where you come from or what kind of status you have in this community.

PALACIOS: Exactly one year ago, Sutherland Springs lost some of that family in a violent shooting. She says recently, there have been more good days and fewer bad ones.

SMITH: The improvement in everybody - it's a very slow process, but we see more smiles now. And yes, the breakdowns are still there. There's days that it's very hard for a lot of people - a lot of people. But we all manage to be each other's shoulders.

PALACIOS: Sutherland Springs is about 35 miles southeast of San Antonio. The town only has a single blinking traffic light a block away from First Baptist Church.


PALACIOS: Hi, Kris. How are you?

Outside, a van pulls into a handicapped space at the church fellowship hall where a weekly dinner and bible study are getting underway. Kris Workman is one of 20 people who survived the shooting.

WORKMAN: It's been an interesting road to recovery, you know, just mostly relearning, you know, how to live as a paraplegic, how to get around, how to function and stuff like that.

PALACIOS: Workman was shot several times. A bullet bounced off his spine, and some of the metal fragments remain. There is a chance Workman will walk again.

WORKMAN: Well, as of right now in order for me to be upright and walk, I, you know, have to braced. I have to be in a standing frame, or I have to be in, like, full-leg or orthotic braces.

PALACIOS: For some people here, time stopped after the shooting. But Workman remembers First Baptist never stopped. It held church the following week in a field.

WORKMAN: You know what? We're not going to let Satan win. He didn't win. So, you know, why shouldn't we continue on the way that we continued on and persevere? You know, you don't really gain anything by, you know, sitting back and moping and being emotional and stuff like that. That's not going to help you. It's not going to help anybody else. It's not progress.

PALACIOS: Like the weekly church service, Sutherland Springs has kept its annual traditions.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Unintelligible).

PALACIOS: At the recent Old Town Days festival, a parade with bagpipes, emergency vehicles and floats passed in front of the church. One float included two young survivors. First Baptist Church Pastor Frank Pomeroy says it's been a tough year because he and his wife have had to mourn the loss of so many, including their 14-year-old daughter Annabelle who died in the shooting.

FRANK POMEROY: We're still reaching out to one another. There's still a lot of leaning on one another. There are those who - many are still getting counseling and therapy but yet come back to the open arms of neighbors and people and friends here at the church.

PALACIOS: Today marks the end of all of the firsts without family lost in the shooting - first holidays, first birthdays and the first anniversary of the shooting. Pomeroy says the town will persevere and move forward with arms around each other. For NPR News, I'm Joey Palacios in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF MT. WOLF SONG, "HEX") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joey Palacios