Retired Pastor Al Meredith has become a specialist of sorts on the impacts of mass shootings and the long road ahead for victims’ families and survivors.
Twenty years ago in September, a gunman walked into Meredith’s Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth. He targeted attendees of a youth rally – killing seven and injuring seven more.
In the decades since, Meredith has received calls for advice after many mass shootings.
“Talk to one another,” Meredith says. “Don’t bury your grief. Listen to one another – to those who weren’t direct victims. Be available.”
He says anyone can listen but it is also a good idea to finding good counseling.
Meredith also has advice for those wanting to offer help.
“Down south here we bake a casserole or something and take it to the family and all that’s good,” Meredith says. “But we want to say something that will help. And, frankly, even if it were the right thing to say – it’s the wrong time to say it for the most part. People aren’t in a position to receive – especially glib comments like ‘they’re in a better place’ or ‘God must have wanted another angel’… just listen and give people freedom to express their rage, even at God.”
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting at Wedgwood, Meredith says some people called for the building to be torn down.
“It’s my opinion, but if you let terrorists stop you from the normal way of life then the terrorists win,” Meredith says.
He says that is why Wedgwood chose to hold service the Sunday after the shooting.
“You go right back and say, ‘I’ll be more watchful, I’ll be more careful, but this is where I shop, this is where I worship’ – or whatever – and don’t let the darkness win,” Meredith says.
Wedgwood Baptist Church is planning a reunion for the September 15 anniversary of the shooting there. Meredith says it will be a day of rejoicing.
“God has brought us through this – not over it necessarily, you don’t get over it — but you get through it and we’ve seen not even death can separate us from the love of God,” Meredith says.
September 15 also marks the day Meredith is publishing a book: “Surviving Catastrophe: Lessons Learned from the Wedgwood Shooting.” He says all proceeds will go to Wedgwood.