Colorado massacre recalls Wedgwood shooting

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by JIM DOUGLAS

WFAA

Posted on July 20, 2012 at 11:29 PM

FORT WORTH - The massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., brings back the worst of memories for survivors of the mass shooting at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth.

There are similarities between what happened in Aurora, and what happened 13 years ago when a gunman killed seven people and wounded seven others.

Mentally-ill gunman Larry Gene Ashbrook fired more than 100 rounds during a youth prayer rally at Wedgwood Baptist in South Fort Worth, then killed himself.

"There are a whole lot of things when I get to Heaven, I'll ask God for the explanation," said Pastor Al Meredith.

Although many still turn to him for answers in the face of unthinkable tragedy, he doesn't pretend to have all the answers.

"If there is an all-powerful God, how do you explain the presence of evil?" he said. "Evil didn't originate with God. It originated with man."

Meredith knows more than most about what's coming for survivors of the massacre in Aurora -- what's still coming up for those who experienced the Wedgwood shootings.

"Six or seven years later, all of a sudden episodes broke out in marriages, in kids," he says.

He sees similarities between then and now: Young people, trapped and confused. Then shock and numbness. Then the search for answers.

Wedgwood produced some.

"One of the things that came out of this, is the mental-health connection," Meredith said.

The city built a nationally-recognized mental health network to reach people like the gunman, and help those dealing with the pain he wrought.

Pastor Meredith said it's part of the communal, personal and spiritual growth that followed the shooting.

"We grew by 50 percent five years after that," he said.

Survivor Kevin Galey remains a youth counselor. He said victim Cassie Griffin's parents still teach Sunday school. Survivor Rebekah Gillette later married Justin Laird, who was paralyzed in the shooting.

They all believe God's light now shines brighter in lives touched by Wedgwood. But they all know the darkness that still hangs over Aurora, Colorado.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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