The community of Sutherland Springs, Texas, and their neighbors will mourn Wednesday with a family that lost nine members in the chilling massacre at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs two Sundays ago.
The Franklin Funeral Home in Floresville announced on Saturday that the lives of the nine members of the Holcombe family, who represent more than a third of the 26 people executed by deranged gunman Devin Kelley as they worshiped, will be celebrated in a public memorial service at the Floresville Event Center.
John Holcombe, who was injured in the attack but survived, lost his father and mother Bryan and Karla Holcombe, his wife Crystal and her children Emily, Megan and Greg Hill from her first marriage. Crystal's unborn child named Carlin Brite Holcombe, John's brother Marc "Danny" Holcombe and Danny's 17-month-old daughter Noah also died in the attack.
They will all be laid to rest at a private burial ceremony after the public funeral service, the funeral home said.
A representative at the Floresville Event Center who identified herself only as Margaret told The Christian Post Tuesday that while she is not sure how many people will show up for the service, the event center can accommodate up to 3,000 people.
She said the space was donated to the family by the City of Floresville.
"Everyone is pretty saddened by the incident," she explained. "It hit the community hard, not only for them [but] losing all 26 of them (victims).
"Sutherland Springs is a small community just to the east of Floresville. The majority of the kids come to school here in Floresville so the families are all well known," she said.
Crystal's oldest son, 15-year-old Philip Hill, escaped the massacre because he was sick and didn't go to church the day multiple members of his family died. His 7-year-old sister, Evelyn, who was inside the church at the time of the attack, also survived.
In a post on Facebook Monday, John's sister, Sarah Slavin, who has been trying to keep the survivors together, asked her friends to bear with her as she grieved.
"If something you say makes me burst into tears, please just let me cry. Don't apologize. It doesn't mean you said the wrong thing. Don't try to cheer me up. Just love me and let me cry. Hug me if you want but let me go if I try to pull away. Cry with me if you feel it. Love you all," she wrote.
Authorities say Kelley, 26, began firing his Ruger AR-556 rifle at the church building shortly after the 11 a.m. service began on Nov. 5. He emptied more than 15 magazines, holding 30 rounds each and when he was done, 26 people were dead and 20 others suffered serious injuries. The Holcombes suffered the most casualties of any family at the small church.
More than $1 million has been raised for victims of the massacre with the lion's share going toward the Holcombe family.
In the most popular fundraising campaign for the Holcombes, which has raised more than $500,000 so far, John explained that he and his late wife did not get to see what the sex of their baby, the youngest victim, would have been.
"Regarding our baby, we don't know if it was a boy or a girl. It was too soon to tell. However, we have a name for our baby, who died in the womb. Carlin Brite 'Billy Bob' Holcombe. This includes Crystal's pick for a girl, a boy, and the nickname the kids gave the baby," John said.
Annabelle Pomeroy, the 14-year-old adopted daughter of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife Sherri, who also died in the attack, was laid to rest on Monday.