Texas Community Prays Together After Friday's School Shooting

May 24, 2018
Originally published on May 24, 2018 12:01 pm
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The town of Santa Fe, Texas, came together in prayer last night. It's been almost a week since a shooting at the local high school left 10 people dead and 13 injured. So far, police have released few updates on the investigation into why and how it happened. While they wait for answers, many in Santa Fe look for solace and faith. Here's NPR's Hansi Lo Wang.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: In a town that takes pride in its Spanish name for holy faith, Wednesday nights are usually set aside for quiet Bible study. Last night, residents in Santa Fe mourned in song.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) My chains are going to be set free.

WANG: Families gathered for a memorial vigil for the eight students and two teachers killed last Friday. Natasha Achord filed into the local junior high's football stadium with her husband and four daughters. They knew a couple of the young victims.

NATASHA ACHORD: It's been pretty encouraging to see how the community's come together and just really helped each other be strong.


DEL TOLER: I wonder, is anybody here Santa Fe proud tonight?


WANG: Pastor Del Toler of Calvary Crossroad Church was one of the faith leaders who took turns ministering to the crowd. Toler addressed head-on what he said many in this deeply religious town have been thinking since the shooting.


TOLER: Some people blame this horrific event on God.

WANG: But Toler said he sees his god as one of mercy, tenderness and grace and made clear that the blame lies with people.


TOLER: It's man that makes laws. It's man that makes rules. And we cannot blame God for the consequences of our own decisions.

WANG: During the vigil, Chris Donatto listened to the sermons from the football stands. He's a missionary based at the Shrine of the True Cross just outside of Santa Fe. Some of the students he's been meeting with are haunted by the gunshots and screams they heard at the high school.

CHRIS DONATTO: They're like, I'm all right, you know, like, especially the guys. They're like, I'm good, I'm OK. But if you listen, pay attention, let them talk long enough, they'll admit to that something's wrong.

WANG: Donatto says he's worried students here will become more isolated, and he hopes faith can continue to give them support even if it can't answer all the questions lingering after the shooting.

DONATTO: I'm not going to tell a teen God had a purpose for this. You know, like, here's why it happened. Like, it happened because there's evil in the world. That's why it had happened. It happened because a hurt person made a decision.

WANG: Police are still looking into the decisions the alleged gunman made before opening fire in his school. Officials have warned that many details may not be released until the case goes to trial. But a spokesperson for the FBI's Houston field office, Connor Hagan, has confirmed to member station KUT that about four minutes after the suspect entered the high school, law enforcement officers engaged with him for close to a half hour.


CONNOR HAGAN: Officers fired a limited number of rounds towards the suspect while he was barricaded in a small room. And at this point in time, there's no evidence to suggest that gunshots penetrated a wall of the room and placed anyone other than the suspect in danger.

WANG: While the investigation continues, more funerals for the victims are set for Friday.

Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, Santa Fe, Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF HIDDEN ORCHESTRA'S "STILL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.