A Texas school is devastated by church shooting

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas, Nov 8 (Reuters) - It was heartbreaking for Jennifer Berrones to explain to her 7-year-old daughter Kaylee that her friend and classmate Emily was not coming back to school after Sunday's church massacre in rural Texas.

"At first my daughter didn't understand what had happened. She asked me if Emily was sleeping and I had to tell her that she was never going to wake up," said Berrones, 36, an assistant at Floresville South Elementary School where her daughter and Emily Garcia were in second grade. "I told my daughter that Emily is now with God in heaven."

Floresville is about 11 miles southwest of the small town of Sutherland Springs, where Devin Kelley opened fire on a Baptist congregation on Sunday, killing 26 people and wounding 20 in Texas' deadliest mass shooting. Nine of the dead were children, including one unborn, Texasofficials said on Wednesday.

19 PHOTOS
Some of the victims of the Texas church shooting
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Some of the victims of the Texas church shooting
Haley Krueger was described as a beautiful and vibrant girl who had dreams of becoming a NICU nurse, according to a GoFundMe set up in her memory. She was 16. 

(Photo via GoFundMe)
Annabelle Pomeroy was the daughter of the pastor of the First Baptist Church. Both of her parents were out of town at the time of shooting. She was 14 years old. 

(Photo via Facebook)

Eight members of the same family were killed in the shooting, including Crystal Holcombe, who was pregnant. Three of her kids and her unborn child were also killed.

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

Megan Hill, 9

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

Gregory Hill, 13

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

Emily Hill, 11

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

Dennis Johnson Sr. and his wife Sara had celebrated their 44th wedding anniversary in July and were members of the church for more than a decade, according to a fundraising page created in their memory.

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Bryan Holcombe and his wife Karla Plain Holcombe, were both victims of the mass shooting. Bryan was an associate pastor at the church and was reported'y preparing to lead the congregation in mass when the shooting began.

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

Tara Elyse McNulty was remembered as a 'sweet, kind and loving woman, mother and daughter' on a GoFundMe page created in her memory. Her kids were reportedly injured in the shooting, but survived. 

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Lula Woicinski White was the gunman's grandmother-in-law. Her sister told the New York Daily News that 'she loved the people in her church. They were all her best friends.' She was 71.

(Photo via Facebook)

Joann Ward reportedly died while trying to use herself as a shield to protect her four young children.

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

Brooke was killed along with her mother, Joann Ward, and her older sister. She was 5 years old.

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Emily Garza, 7

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

Shani Corrigan and her husband Robert Corrigan

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

Richard Rodriguez attended church every Sunday, according to his daughter. He was 51 years old.

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

Therese Sagan Rodriguez was killed along with her husband, Richard. She was 66. 
Robert and Karen Marshall were new to Texas and trying out churches when they were killed in Sutherland Springs… https://t.co/vDn9EeYHJA
Peggy Lynn Warden https://t.co/qkj3Vqg0SO #KSATnews https://t.co/XRLt20hg8M
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Many of Sutherland Springs' children go to school in Floresville, and no school was harder hit than Floresville South Elementary, which lost two students and had three wounded, according to Floresville's school superintendent.

On the school's Facebook page, smiling students wearing black T-shirts saying "Strength through Hope" in comic-book script put on defiant superhero poses next to their teachers.

But inside the school the mood has been grim.

"The first few days were rough. Teachers, students and the principal were crying," Berrones said on Wednesday.

Schools have brought in counselors to help children and staff deal with the grief and trauma. Some students like Alison Gould, 17, have been unable to face going back to school.

"I have been taking it really hard. I am trying to get this sunk in. It is really hard to think that your best friend is gone," said Gould, after her friend Haley Krueger, 16, was killed.

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Vice President Mike Pence visits Texas after church shooting
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Vice President Mike Pence visits Texas after church shooting
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence shakes hands with Johnnie Langendorff, who was one of the heroes that chased the assailant, near the site of the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence hugs Evelyn Holcombe at Floresville highschool in Floresville, Texas, U.S., November 8, 2017. Holcombe was in the church during the shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence hugs Joe Holcombe at Floresville high school in Floresville, Texas, U.S., November 8, 2017. Holcombe was in the church during the shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Holcombe lost eight extended family members during the shooting. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
U.S. vice-president Mike Pence (R) hugs Stephen Willeford, the man who shot the shooter in the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Floresville, Texas, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence hugs Pastor Frank Pomeroy, whose daughter was killed in the recent shooting, near First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (L) greets U.S. Vice President Mike Pence as he arrives at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, U.S., November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen greet a couple at Floresville high school during a visit with family and victims of the shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, before a vigil in Floresville, Texas, U.S., November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
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Floresville High School hosted a memorial service on Wednesday evening for the victims attended by Vice President Mike Pence.

It was part of a long and painful healing process for a group of tightly knit rural communities about 40 miles southeast of San Antonio.

Sutherland Springs lost about 5 percent of its population of 400. The town's children go to schoolin nearby communities.

The official release of the names of the dead on Wednesday changed rumors to facts and brought more pain, residents said.

"We may need more grief counselors," Stockdale Independent School District Superintendent Daniel Fuller said.

Mary Beth Fisk, chief executive of the San Antonio-based Ecumenical Center, has brought about 20 counselors to Sutherland Springs.

"It will be a long process of recovery. Often people take one step forward and three steps back," Fisk said.

Sandy Phillips knows that process. Her daughter Jessica was one of 12 people killed when a gunman opened fire in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012.

Phillips set up a support group for survivors of mass shootings and plans to visit Sutherland Springs next week to help families.

"What they don't understand is that their whole community has been damaged and traumatized," said Phillips, who traveled to Las Vegas and Orlando in the wake of mass shootings in those cities.

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Photos from the scene of the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting
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Photos from the scene of the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting
Police block a road in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 5, 2017, after a mass shooting a church nearby. A gunman shot dead at least 20 worshippers attending Sunday morning services at a Baptist church in Texas, news media reported. / AFP PHOTO / SUZANNE CORDEIRO (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Police block a road in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 5, 2017, after a mass shooting a church nearby. A gunman shot dead at least 20 worshippers attending Sunday morning services at a Baptist church in Texas, news media reported. / AFP PHOTO / SUZANNE CORDEIRO (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Police block a road in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, 2017, after a mass shooting at the the First Baptist Church. A gunman went into the church during Sunday morning services and shot dead some two dozen worshippers, the sheriff said, in the latest mass shooting to shock the US. 'Approximately 25 people' were dead, including the shooter, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told NBC News. At least 10 people were wounded. The motive was not immediately known, he added. / AFP PHOTO / SUZANNE CORDEIRO (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Police block a road in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, 2017, after a mass shooting at the the First Baptist Church (rear). A gunman went into the church during Sunday morning services and shot dead some two dozen worshippers, the sheriff said, in the latest mass shooting to shock the US. 'Approximately 25 people' were dead, including the shooter, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told NBC News. At least 10 people were wounded. The motive was not immediately known, he added. / AFP PHOTO / SUZANNE CORDEIRO (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Families gather at the community center awaiting news about the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
Families gather at the community center awaiting news about the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Law enforcement officials gather near the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Law enforcement officials gather near the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 6: Law enforcement officials gather near the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Law enforcement and forensic officials gather near the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: A forensics official passes by the entrance to the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Law enforcement officials gather near the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
Families gather at the community center awaiting news about the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
Police are at the scene of the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
Families gather at the community center awaiting news about the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
Police have closed off the roads near the scene of the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
First responders are at the shooting scene at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
First responders are at the scene of shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
First responders are at the scene of shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: People gather near First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 26 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, allegedly entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Law enforcement officials gather near First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 26 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, allegedly entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
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(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Lisa Garza; Additional reporting by Andrew Hay; Writing by Andrew Hay; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Grant McCool)

 

 

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