One moment, Jenni Holcombe and her husband, Danny were praying at church with their baby girl. The next, her husband and 17-month-old Noah were gone. Killed on Nov. 5 by Devin Kelley, who opened fire on an unarmed congregation as Sunday services were starting, killing 26 people.
"It feels like forever since we've seen them,” said Jenni Holcombe, who survived the worst mass shooting in Texas history.
Nine members of Jenni’s family – including an unborn baby – were killed on that horrific Sunday one year ago.
"The whole family - all of them - they were just full of life and love. And, when we were together it was just fun and laughter. And, we try to keep that now. It's different, but we were a close family before."
Sarah Slavin agrees. Her mother, Karla Holcombe was reading the morning announcements when the gunman stormed in and began shooting. Her father, Bryan Holcombe was getting ready to give the sermon. They were among those killed.
Still, she says, her family is resilient, leaning on each other for support.
"We can't let those last 10 minutes of our loved ones' lives negate everything that came before that, you know,” Slavin said. “We can't let that undo all of the joy and the smiles and the silliness and laughter that we had before, we choose to still have it."
It’s been a year. Yet, the family says instead of letting the tragedy tear them apart, they use their faith to draw closer.
"It's a gift that God's given us, that we're able to be this way and show others that it is possible to have joy again, to smile again,” said Jenni Holcombe. “It's not going to happen all the time, but there are good days and you're going to get through it."
For their brother Scott Holcombe, however - getting through those darker days – seemed impossible.
"We're a little different. They've been good their whole lives. Me, I haven't,” he said. “I've struggled with drug addiction and alcohol for the last 15 years of my life."
He turned to the only thing he knew.
"I didn't know how to live life. I felt sorry for myself,” he said. “The grief was so intense, on top of having a substance abuse problem… I wanted to die."
Spiraling out of control, his mom always on his mind – Scott Holcombe turned to God.
"I remember praying. I was praying one day,” he said. “It was probably like eight days after. This is too much. You have to take the wheel because I can't do this."
Within months, Scott was arrested. As he sees it, his parents were still looking out for him.
"I sat in jail I was like: how'd I get myself here? And then I realized that my prayer was answered, that they were saving my life,” he said. “I ended up going to rehab and I've been clean now for a good few months.”
For the Holcombe family – the silver lining? An inspiring example of God’s hand at work.
"We always prayed for him, my parents, all of us prayed for Scott, that he would be able to go to a rehab,” Slavin said. “So this is encouragement, too. It's another thing where we can see what good came from it."
It’s been a painful year, but in their faith, the Holcombes found forgiveness for the gunman.
A message of hope – for the world.
"It wasn't being at church that did this. I don't have anger towards the church or towards anyone involved, you know, it's never been a question for me,” Jenni Holcombe said. “We have so many good memories in that church. We were there so much, you know, that's where Noah, grew up for 17 months. That's how I met my husband. That was our life. "