The gunman who opened fire on a congregation in Sutherland Springs is dead, but people around the nation are still grieving the loss of the 26 people he murdered.
Five days have passed since Michael Kelley opened fire at members in First Baptist Church. Four people, including two children, are still hospitalized. And some are in critical condition.
Images from the massacre remind Temple Junior Mike Williams of a shooting that happened in his church just last year.
Williams was present when an altercation over a chair in Keystone Fellowship Church in Montgomery County made him fear for his life.
“I remember looking around and seeing people crying and people running out the door. I thought, ‘okay we’re all about to die,'” he explains.
Williams remembers the sound of two shots being fired.
“You just hear two bang, bang, two loud shots. And at first I wasn’t sure what it was, but you could smell the gunpowder. And I was like ‘oh my gosh some guy has a gun in the church,'” he said.
The gunman’s shots were fatal. The victim, Robert Braxton III, was 27-years-old and William’s friend. Williams described Braxton as funny and caring.
Much like the community in Sutherland Springs, Keystone Fellowship Church is small and close knit.
“I’m in some suburban town where people leave their houses unlocked. I would never think something like that would happen,” Williams said.
Bryan Miller, the Executive Director of Heeding God’s Call, says killings like this happen because political action stops when the prayers do.
“It also bothers me that we’ve allowed this situation to continue to the point where sanctuaries–houses of worship–are now being invaded by people that are intent on mayhem, which I think is a horrible thing,” he explained.
Heeding God’s Call is a faith-based organization that focuses on eliminating gun violence in Philadelphia. Miller is calling on Philadelphia’s communities of faith to step up and hopes his movement will spark others around the country.
Miller also hopes his organization will inspire politicians to enact laws that would prohibit the sale and possession of semi-automatic weapons. He wants to see change in the next couple of years.
“I’m optimistic to believe that over the next 10 or more years, we’ll see a major change,” he said. “The public is in favor.”
Williams is also optimistic about the future. He says hope is how his church got through the loss of Braxton and how the families of victims in Texas can too.
“Don’t lose hope,” he said. “You may have lost a family member, you may have lost a close loved one, but don’t lose hope. Don’t lose faith.”
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