FLORESVILLE, TX - “Love Conquers Hate” is the headline on this week's edition of the Wilson County News in Floresville.
But more than ink on paper, this is living history, lovingly written by people who lost friends and neighbors in the Sutherland Springs massacre on Sunday.
As they worked to write powerful words, they grieved along with those they serve.
As chaos swirled around First Baptist Church in the first moments after the shooting that claimed 26 lives and injured 20 more innocent victims, newspaper editor Nannette Kilbey-Smith was broken-hearted and breaking news.
"There are multiple fatalities including children," Kilbey-Smith said as she described the scene on Facebook Live this past Sunday.
Hours later, she and her small town team published a powerful tribute. The headline they chose for the front page is a message found on a teddy bear left at a makeshift memorial.
"Do you want to believe evil exists? We have proof. But do you really want to see what love is? It's right here. It's right here," Kilbey-Smith said.
Here, where hurt has come to stay, the Wilson County News team is telling the stories that will become treasured keepsakes, words that will keep the memories of their friends alive.
"We want to mourn with everybody. We want to actually pray with everybody and take the time, but right now is not the time that we can do that," Kilbey-Smith said.
“Every morning I wake up and it's like, 'Oh my gosh, our friends are gone!' It really is happening,” publisher Elaine Kolodziej said. “It's your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, people that your kids go to school with, people on the street, the guy across the street with a business. They're no longer here and it's raw. It's still so new, everybody is still trying to figure it out. It's just coping the best way we can. One day at a time, one minute at a time.”
“There's so many people that know all these people, and it's such a small community," said Kristen Weaver, the newspaper's director of operations. "I have a hard time wrapping my brain around that, as small as they are, how much we're all affected.”
“We want to use words that give honor and bless memories and help healing and provide compassion and sympathy," Kilbey-Smith added.
Kolodziej said that she hopes the white-hot glare of international publicity will teach the world that her home is a place full of heart.
“This is Texas," she said. "And I hope the world gets a better picture and gets to know Texas a little bit better."
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