Church Recalls Fatal Shooting as 10th Anniversary Nears

Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, held special services Sunday to honor the victims of the fatal shooting that took place there nearly ten years ago during a special youth event.

On Sept. 15, 1999, Larry Gene Ashbrook walked into Wedgwood Church as youth were gathered for a "Saw You at the Pole" rally and fired over 100 rounds from two different handguns before taking his own life.

"By the time he was done, seven of our youngest were wounded and seven others murdered and ushered into eternity," recalled Wedgwood's pastor, the Rev. Al Meredith, at the church's two morning worship services.

"Some wonder how we can have joy in the midst of chaos," Meredith later said, according to the Forth Worth Star-Telegram. "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' love and righteousness."

Since the shooting, Wedgwood has erected a simple black granite memorial etched with the seven victims' names, pictures and a favorite Bible verse, saying or sentiment from their family.

During an evening memorial service Sunday, video messages from victims' relatives and shooting survivors were shown on screens in the sanctuary.

"A lot of things we'll never understand this side of heaven, and we don't need to, but we can trust Him," said Kathy Jo Rogers, who was married to Shawn Brown when he was killed.

Justin Laird, who visiting from another church and was celebrating his 16th birthday that day, was shot twice and paralyzed from the neck down but acknowledged that "it could always be worse."

Coincidentally, Laird's future wife, Rebekah, was also present during the shooting but was – unlike him – was able to walk away from the incident. The two met later when Rebekah had knee surgery and ended up in the same rehabilitation center as Justin.

"It's kind of amazing how God works," Rebekah, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, told The Dallas Morning News. "It was a tragic event, but I did meet Justin and we did fall in love and get married. It changed his life in a different way than it changed my life. But it is amazing how God has used us in all of this."

On Tuesday, the 10th anniversary of the shooting, Wedgwood Church will be open all day for those who want to drop by and pray or meditate.

Those who died that day were Kristi Beckel, Joseph Ennis and Cassie Griffin, all 14; Justin Ray, 17; Kim Jones and Shawn Brown, both 23-year-old seminary students; and children's choir director Sydney Browning, 36.

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