Just days after what was one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, the inside of the Sutherland Springs First Baptist church has been turned into a moving memorial to honor the lives of the victims. The first photos from inside the church were released, and they show that the church’s inside has been painted white.
A chair was positioned inside the church in the memory of each victim. Each chair contained a victim’s name and a red rose. A pink rose was placed on the chair of the unborn child who died inside another of the victims, Crystal Holcombe. CNN reported that the public was invited inside the church to witness the memorial, and people were greeted to the sounds of the victims’ voices. “A recording of some of the victims’ voices played in the background. They were reading scripture, or praying,” the network reported.
One of the recorded voices said, “For everyone who believes in him shall have eternal life.” At the front of the church, “behind a wooden cross, visitors could read a poster of the scripture that was meant to be read last Sunday,” CNN added. That scripture was Psalm 100.
It says, in part: “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For Yahweh is good, and His love is eternal; His faithfulness endures through all generations.”
Twenty six people, including an unborn child, died inside the First Baptist Church when a gunman with anger over domestic issues burst into the small country church in Texas and opened fire. Many of those who died were children. The victims were attending a Sunday church service when the gunman, whose in laws attended the church, committed the massacre. The massacre ended when he was confronted by a neighbor with a rifle who shot him and then chased him from the scene. The killer then committed suicide inside his vehicle a short ways away. The number of victims made the church massacre one of the deadliest in American history.
The church also held its first service on November 12 since the massacre occurred, but it was not held inside the building where people died. “The church building was open only for people to pay their respects. The actual Sunday service was held in a specially-erected tent on the site of the town’s baseball field,” reported The BBC. “The book of Proverbs was available for worshippers to read, surrounded by boxes of tissues.”
“We had some amazing people come and pull off a miracle to basically rebuild this sanctuary,” Associate Pastor Mark Collins said, according to USA Today. According to USA Today, the decision about whether to eventually demolish the church building has not yet been determined. In many cases, after mass shootings, the site of the tragedies is demolished. USA Today also reported that the chairs honoring the victims were placed where each person fell; the arrangement shows that the people in the back of the church building were most affected by the gunman’s bullets.
You can read more about the lives of each victim here: