The community of Roswell, more than 1,200 strong, show their support for victims of the Berrendo Middle School shooting at the Roswell Civic Center, Tuesday evening. (Mark Wilson Photo)
A vigil for the victims of the shooting at Berrendo Middle School drew more than 1,500 people to the Roswell Civic Center Tuesday evening.
All seats in the auditorium were taken, leaving many standing to the sides and in the foyer of the center as they partook in the musical service organized by Church on the Move.
Church on the Move Pastor Troy Smothermon said the vigil was centered on music because praying through music drew more attention to God than a human speaker could, “allowing Him to heal us.”
A collection of pastors and music ministers from churches throughout Roswell led the audience in singing of Christian rock songs. Church on the Move invited all congregations in Roswell to participate.
Attendees hugged and cried, stood to sing, raised their hands and swayed to the music.
Song lyrics were displayed on a PowerPoint presentation by the stage.
“You are holy, oh, so holy,” sang the united voice of the audience, a decibel above the voice of the pastor leading the song.
The room filled with claps and cheers when Smothermon said he had heard from a pastor in Lubbock and family of a seriously wounded victim that the two students taken to University Hospital in Lubbock were doing well.
The Chaves County CASA program brought two assistance dogs to the center to comfort those in attendance.
Representatives of Red Cross from Hobbs, Roswell and Las Cruces were also present, offering tissues to all and snacks to media and first responders of the shooting.
Roswell Independent School District Superintendent Tom Burris said the vigil brought the community together.
“In times of tragedy, that’s what we need,” he said.
City Councilor Dusty Huckabee was taken aback by the size of the crowd, which he said was larger than anything he had seen at the center in more than 10 years.
As pastors and community leaders spoke to the crowd against the backdrop of music, they prayed for the wounded and their families, the shooter and his family, and the whole community.
State Rep. Nora Espinoza (Rep.-Dist 59) prayed that God would “be with those that are in the hospital.”
Friends and acquaintances of the victims and of the shooter’s family were among those present at the vigil.
Berrendo cafeteria cook Robin Emeterio said she came to pay respect to children involved in the shooting.
“We know almost all the kids,” she said. “I’m hoping it [the vigil] will bring the school kids closer to realize we don’t want anything like this to happen.”
Carole Schlatter, a longtime friend of the shooter’s family, said “I really really just love the family … They’re well-loved by many people.”
“It’s painful for all of us.”