Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence traveled with a delegation to Texas on Wednesday to spend time with victims and families of the worst mass shooting in Texas history.
Pence and his wife first traveled to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio to meet with those injured in the Sunday attack on First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. While the visit was closed to the press, the Vice President recounted some of his time there in a speech at the church shortly thereafter.
“We just met Gunny Macias, who is recovering from serious injuries, shot five times. But I was told despite his injuries that Marine stood up and was triaging the scene, barking out orders,” said Pence. He also spoke of those who didn’t survive that day, “And we think of JoAnn Ward, who laid down her life shielding her children, ultimately saving her son.”
Pence then spoke of the inspiring community of faith there.
First Baptist Church pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife joined Pence during Wednesday’s meeting at the church. The Vice President spoke of the overwhelming inspiration he and the second lady saw in the faith community of Sutherland Springs.
“Faith is stronger than evil,” said the Vice President. “I had one of the family members at the hospital today tell me that they feel the prayers of the American people.”
From the church, the Vice President and his wife continued on to Floresville High School to meet with families of First Baptist members who were killed. About 70 to 80 people were gathered in the school’s library to meet with the Pences.
One woman told the two, “He was a veteran … then he was in the national guard … served his country.” Pence consoled the woman quietly, “It hurts.”
To others, Pence offered, “You’re in our prayers … It’s a very special church.” He embraced a few of the family members. To one man who lost his sister-in-law, Pence said, “The whole country’s praying over you … This church family is touching the whole country.”
One man asked the Vice President to pass a message along to President Donald Trump, “If you would please tell the President we thank him.” Pence assured the man, “He wanted us to be here. He’s in Beijing but I guarantee you his heart’s here.”
In a separate area, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his wife Mary, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his wife Cecilia, and Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Will Hurd (R-TX) also consoled families.
A reporter described the mood in the room, “The atmosphere was subdued, somber, like a home in mourning after a funeral.”
After the meeting, the Vice President gave remarks at a prayer vigil at the high school’s stadium. “We mourn with those who mourn and we grieve with those who grieve.”
The family members that had been gathered in the library came out to the stadium for the vigil and were received with applause.
“The Bible tells us that the Lord is close to the heart of the broken-hearted. That will be our prayer for you from this day forward,” said Pence.
Pence went on to talk about injured young parishioner Zach, “who lost his grandmother. But his courage in that moment, even in the midst of his injuries, saved a little girl from stepping into harm’s way.” David Colbath was mentioned next: “recovering from serious injuries, but he still made time to have his men’s Bible study in his hospital room last night.” He said Colbath asked Vice President and Mrs. Pence to pray with him before they left and shocked Pence as Colbath prayed for them.
Recovering young James and Hailey McNulty were described as “two of the bravest kids I’ve ever met, with bright futures before them.” He continued, “We were inspired by the resilience and the faith of the people that we met and by the families coming around them.”
He then recalled for the crowd the unforgettable and inspirational words of First Baptist Pastor Pomeroy who, still grieving the loss of his teenage daughter, told the world, “Lean on the Lord rather than your own understanding … I don’t understand, but I know my God does.”
“Whatever animated the evil that descended on that church last Sunday,” said Pence, “if the attacker’s desire was to silence their testimony of faith, he failed.”
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