FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–During an emotional service March 30, members of Wedgwood Baptist Church and the Fort Worth community dedicated a memorial to seven victims of the nation’s worst church shooting.
Larry Gene Ashbrook, 47, entered the south foyer and sanctuary of the church on Sept. 15, 1999, and fired randomly into the crowd comprised mostly of young people who were celebrating at a “See You at the Pole” event.
Ashbrook wounded seven others before taking his own life. Killed were Shawn Brown, 23; Kim Jones, 23; Sydney Browning, 36; Joey Ennis, 14; Cassie Griffin, 14; Kristi Beckel, 14; and Justin Stegner Ray, 17.
Brown and Jones were ministerial students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the Texas city. Browning was part of the ministerial staff at Wedgwood. Ennis, Griffin, Beckel and Ray were at the church as part of a celebration of prayer around flagpoles at area schools and other schools across the country.
Pastor Al Meredith called the service a “celebration of life and dedication of the memorial plaza honoring the seven martyrs who died Sept. 15, 1999.”
During the two-hour ceremony, Meredith also noted that the gunman was unable to extinguish the spiritual life of those who died.
“The day after the shooting, I could honestly stand before reporters and say that we grieve not as those who have no hope. As far as we know, all of these kids are with the Lord.”
Erected just outside the south foyer of the sanctuary, the memorial plaza consists of an eight-sided granite monument. Seven sides are dedicated to each of the martyrs bearing their name, photo, date of birth and a description of the individual written by the family. The eighth side describes the events of the evening of Sept. 15.
Black-granite prayer benches surround the 17,000-pound monument that includes a flagpole. Cold Spring Granite Co. in Cold Spring, Minn., manufactured the monument from granite obtained in India.
Meredith introduced a family member of each of the victims and invited them to the pulpit to speak. As each made their way to the front they paused to light a candle of remembrance and hope.
Kathy Jo (Brown) Rogers, who remarried last year and is expecting a child, said she has learned much about God through Shawn’s death. She had to learn to trust God fully since the shooting, she said.
“I never really had to trust God with something I didn’t understand. I had to learn that God is sovereign and doesn’t waste anything.”
Rogers has established a scholarship fund at Southwestern Seminary in memory of her late husband.
Stan and Stephanie Jones returned from Saudi Arabia to remember their daughter. They distributed pieces of a puzzle to those present. Life, they said, is like a puzzle, “and God knows how all of the pieces fit together.” What is certain, she said, is that they will see their daughter again.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: WEDGWOOD MEMORIAL. For more Baptist Press coverage of the Wedgwood shootings see http://www.bpnews.net/wedgwood/default.html.