Survivors speak out on anniversary of Sutherland Springs church shooting

Monday marks the one-year anniversary since the deadliest shooting in Texas history. Authorities said on November 5, 2017, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley shot 46 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, killing 26 people. 

On this day a year ago, the quiet, small town of Sutherland Springs was changed forever when a gunman stormed into the Sunday service at First Baptist Church and started shooting. 

Kevin Jordan has been attending First Baptist for decades. Jordan and his family live next door to the church. 

"I'm one of the first ones that saw the gunman open fire because I was working on my car outside. And when I ran inside, he missed my son by about two feet. He shot at us about three times," Jordan said. 

Jordan, his wife and his 5-year-old son Ezra, hid in their bathroom praying the gunman wouldn't find them. When the bullets finally stopped, Jordan who is a medical assistant, ran over to the church and started rendering aid to the victims. 

In total, 46 people were shot. Only 20 survived. 

"There were several bullets. I didn't really count them. I was just praying. I was praying and I think that God still has a reason for me or I wouldn't be here," John Holcombe said. 

John Holcombe, 40, was one of those survivors. But that day, Holcombe and his 8-year-old daughter Evelyn lost nine members of their family including three of his kids, his pregnant wife and their unborn child.  

"Evelyn knows they're in Heaven. And she knows her grandparents-- my mom and dad, and her uncle, Danny-- my brother and niece-- are in Heaven," Holcombe said. 

The void left behind by the 26 people killed left family members like Evangelina Santos searching for ways to cope on the anniversary of her brother's death. 

Santos said her brother, 64-year-old Richard Rodriguez and his wife, 66-year-old Theresa, had recently celebrated two milestones before they were killed. 

"There are so many memories. We miss them a lot. They were a lovely couple and my sister-in-law was so sweet. And she was cancer free. And my brother had just retired," Santos said.

Santos said Rodriguez was one of eight siblings -- five brothers and three sisters. 

At a special service dedicated to the families, friends and survivors at the church on Sunday, the whole Rodriguez pack showed up in matching t-shirts to honor the couple.

"We were very close. And now I feel like I'm lost without him cause he was always there for me. That's how I feel every day. It's like something's missing. It's just not right but you gotta go on," Santos said.

In the months that followed one of the deadliest massacres in US history, the congregation at First Baptist Church grew significantly, nearly tripling in size.

Stephen Willeford said he became a devoted, active member because he believes God called on him to intervene that day.

"You don't have to be ready with a gun to run into the fight.  Be ready with what God has trained you to do," Willeford said.

The 56-year-old ran over to the church, shot the gunman multiple times and chased him for several miles until police arrived. 

"November 5th didn't define who Sutherland Springs is. November 5th just shined a light on who Sutherland Springs already was for the rest of the world to see," Willeford said.

November 5th will always be a painful reminder of the anguish felt in Sutherland Springs that day. But each day moving forward is a gift that reminds them to never lose hope.

"I realize that every day that we have moving forward, you know, every hug that we get from our family, every time we get to gather together, is just a gift," said Kris Workman, who was paralyzed after being shot in the spine. 

The original building where the shooting happened was turned into a memorial site for the victims. A new place of worship is now being built adjacent to the church.