The modest Texas church where a gunman massacred more than two dozen worshipers last week reopened as a memorial on Sunday, giving the public its first glimpse of the site where one of the most shocking mass shootings in United States history unfolded.
Signs of the rampage that officials said took 26 lives and wounded 20 others were muted at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs after a weeklong effort to transform its devastated sanctuary into a shrine honouring the deceased.
All the pews, carpets and church equipment had been removed, and the floors were still sticky from fresh coats of paint.
The windows were painted over in swirling water colours.
White, wooden folding chairs were placed in no regular pattern throughout the church, with each marking the precise spot where a victim’s body was found.
A single rose, decorated with white ribbon, graced every seat, with the victim’s name written in gold cursive script on its back along with a cross painted in red.
As members of the media were escorted four at a time through the chapel, a recorded voice could be heard reading verses of scripture.
Outside, as a steady rain fell, about 100 family members and others waited to pay their respects.
Construction crews worked around the clock for 72 hours to make the church representable to those families, Associate Pastor Mark Collins said.
Earlier, Pastor Frank Pomeroy led a gathering of about 500 in Sunday services held in a tent erected in a muddy athletic field, a short walk from the church.
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