We shared this story with you to show how prayer can make a difference in even the most extreme circumstances of life. After the shooting, Wedgwood Baptist was literally covered in prayer from all parts of the U.S. and the world. The staff printed out the prayer emails and papered all of the hallways and classrooms in the church. School children made a paper chain with each link written with a prayer and it stretched around and around the halls and walls of the church. And as recounted in the video, eye witnesses and loved ones of those who died spontaneously used magic markers to write prayers on the concrete floors of the church expressing their feelings to God. The church and the people survived. Prayer made it possible.
A Summary of the Events
On Wednesday night Sept. 15, 1999 a deranged gunman opened fire in the sanctuary at a youth rally at the Wedgwood Baptist church in Fort Worth, Texas near Southwestern Theological Seminary. At first many of the teens thought it was a skit because it was after the Columbine High School killings. 7 youth and young adults were killed and others wounded.
John Roland’s Eye Witness Account
As described in the video, John wrote out a prayer to God in magic marker on the floor at the spot where his friend Shawn was killed and his friend’s widow Kathy Jo wrote a message there, too. John was in seminary and they lived in seminary housing next door to Shawn and Kathy Jo. Shawn was John’s spiritual accountability partner and their wives were partners with each other as well. John and Shawn would often walk and pray together.
That Wednesday night Shawn and John had planned to ride together to the youth rally at the church. Prior to that night Shawn had told John, “God has put it on my heart that something big is going to go in your life and in my wife’s life. I’m praying for both of you.”
The way Shawn said it had John thinking something bad might happen to one of his family members back in Florida. There was a hurricane approaching where his parents lived, so right before leaving for the service John called his family and asked if everyone was OK. John kept talking on the phone and Shawn got tired of waiting for him and finally drove to church alone.
Shawn’s wife Kathy Jo was babysitting two children and she was at church. At the time of shooting Kathy was in a different part of the church and saw people running. The police sealed off the church and they didn’t have any word about Shawn. Kathy Jo and John waited at a nurse’s station nearby and hours later they got the word that Shawn had been killed. John took on the role of family spokesperson and helped with the funeral.
The church building was sealed off for several days and was finally open again for Sunday worship, which was done despite bullet holes in the woodwork and the fact that the blood stained carpet had been removed and the bare concrete floor was exposed. A number of members of an Assembly of God church in Tulsa, OK drove five miles to come and walk around the church and pray as they held worship services.
On Monday or Tuesday John went to the church with Kathy Jo. Other people had already taken magic markers and written things on the floor so they wrote their words to God where Shawn had died. When the grief stricken members of the youth group met they were all given pens and markers to write their own prayers and thoughts on the floor.
Here are some of the things that were written on the floor:
“My God, my God. You are sovereign.”
“Don’t ever forget! God is in this place. He mourns with us.”
“God spared me on this day so I can tell others about Christ. Gen. 15:25”
“Thank you God for sparing my son.”
“Satan you are defeated. God ended it 2000 years ago.”
“God was here Wednesday, September 15, 1999. He was watching over everyone. He sat right down here. He wept with us. He rejoiced with us. We will see Him soon.”
“Lord, say hi to Shawn.”
“Almighty God, thank you for saving my wife and my daughter.”
“Jesus died praising His father and the seven who were killed died doing the same thing.”
“Father, thank you for your love, peace and wisdom. It was at this spot the joy of my spirit and salvation became real again.”
“Hey, Mr. Gunman, I forgive you.”
“He tried but he couldn’t defeat the power of God.”
“Thank you, God. I will let all the people at school know of your love. Thank you for saving me both spiritually (4/29/90) and physically (9/15/99). I love you Lord.”
“Mr. Gunman, I haven’t ever had any anger toward you. In fact, I feel sorry for you. You allowed yourself to be taken over by Satan and then Satan took full advantage of you. I forgive you and through Christ’s love toward me, I can say that I love you.”
“Lord, this is where he was when I saw him.That was the instant that my life changed. This is where my all in all became real to me. Lord, I am now yours fully.”
“Lord, I am struggling in dealing with this tragedy, but You are in control and will help us through.”
What Kathy Jo, Shawn’s Wife Wrote on the Floor
“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”Song of Solomon 6:3. I love you, honey, so much. “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27. Kathy Jo
For More Information:
PDF version of the book Night of Tragedy, a Dawning of Light