U.S. Vice President Mike Pence traveled to this rural stretch of Texas to offer prayers and words of comfort to a stricken community three days after a lone gunman killed more than two dozen people during a Sunday morning church service.
The memorial service was held Wednesday (Nov. 8) on a high school football field in the neighboring town of Floresville, about 13 miles from the site of the massacre at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. The service followed Christian tradition and was replete with Bible readings and prayers to Jesus.
It offered few political points and no mention of guns, mental illness or domestic violence.
Pence said he was inspired by the strong convictions of the people of Sutherland Springs and especially the victims of its historic church, and he expressed his solidarity with their faith.
Off to the side of the stadium, a section was reserved for victims’ families, and it was to them that much of the prayers and words were addressed.
“Faith is stronger than evil,” Pence reassured the families. “Faith is the antidote to fear and despair.”
Thousands of people responded with shouts of “Yeah!” and “Amen!”
Earlier in the day, Pence visited the hospital where many survivors are being treated and met with the families of the victims. He also spoke briefly to reporters outside First Baptist Church, cordoned off with yellow tape.
“This evil must come to an end in our land,” he said, citing “bureaucratic failures” that allowed the shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, to buy multiple weapons, including the Ruger AR-556 rifle he used at the church, despite having been admitted to a psychiatric hospital while he was in the Air Force.