This week marks 20 years since the tragic mass shooting at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, and the church community plans to mark the anniversary with a series of events.
On Sept. 15, 1999, a lone gunman, Larry Ashbrook, 47, walked into the church in south Fort Worth, which was hosting a youth event for a "See You at the Pole" rally, and shot 14 people, killing seven, before he took his own life.
"Sometimes it seems like yesterday," said Jeff Laster, who as a church custodian in 1999 was the first person to encounter the shooter that day and spent around a month in the hospital recovering from the two gunshot wounds he received.
Laster still works at Wedgwood, acting now as the Associate Pastor of Administration. He spoke this week about three anniversary events that the church is hosting.
On Thursday night at 6 p.m. the Wedgwood Baptist community will host a private prayer service which will only be open for church members.
On Saturday afternoon, from 2 to 4 p.m., Wedgwood will open its doors to the public for a display of items memorializing that day, including newspaper headlines, photographs, cards and care packages delivered to the church in the wake of the shooting, as well as tributes to the victims and survivors.
And then on Sunday, which is the actual 20th anniversary, the church will have a special, two-hour service, starting at 9:30 a.m., titled "God wastes nothing."
"We want people to be able to leave with that sense of hope, that sense of healing and the sense that – bad things are going to happen, there is evil in the world, bad things are going to happen that we have no control over – but God’s grace and love get you through that," said Laster. "There can always be good coming out of something. God can use it if you just allow Him to use it."