FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Sunday’s shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs brought back painful memories for a congregation in Fort Worth. Seven people were killed in 1999 during a shooting at a youth rally at Wedgwood Baptist Church.
Al Meredith was the church’s pastor at the time of that tragedy. Like the pastor in Sutherland Springs, Meredith and his wife were not at Wedgwood Baptist Church on that horrible September night. But they know what it will be like for the community in South Texas moving forward.
“Utter heartache,” said Al Meredith. “Utter sadness.”
The phone started ringing at Meredith’s home in Fort Worth not long after news broke about the Sutherland Springs incident.
“We’re feeling for them, because we know how we felt with the seven,” added wife Kay Meredith on Monday, thinking back to that horrible time. “But the magnitude of what they’re going through, we can’t imagine. And they’re going to need lots and lots of people helping them.”
Meredith is retired from leading Wedgwood Baptist Church, but the memory of September 15, 1999 is always present. That is the night that a gunman burst into the building and shot into a crowd of hundreds of teenagers during a Wednesday evening youth rally. Seven people died and seven more were wounded.
The pastor preached at five funerals in just two days.
Looking back on the incident, Meredith said that he never got over the trauma. But he did get through it, because of his faith in God, and love and support from the community. “Whatever you do, don’t close the door, lock the shutters and retreat,” said Meredith. “That’s when the darkness can really overcome you. Get with good people you know and love.”
The Merediths said that counseling and mental health services were critical for them and for their congregation in the process of moving forward, just as it will likely be for the people of Sutherland Springs. It is essential to take care of both the heart and the mind.