FLORESVILLE, Texas — The past week has been terrible in Wilson County. Press at every corner, funerals, questions being raised. Questions that were never supposed to be asked in the small town of Sutherland Springs or its surrounding areas.

But here we are, asking them. Lost in the midst of every report are the answers and how the communities in which Sutherland Springs is surrounded are responding. Bracelets being sold, shirts worn, social media posts: just about anything to honor those who were killed that tragic day.

“It’s been surreal, you’re in shock,” Floresville parent Ben Reed, who has three kids, said. “Your body kind of goes numb and you have to dig down deep to wake up every day to just know time heals all wounds. We’ve got to wake up every day and move forward.

With all of it happening, with the eyes still on Floresville, La Vernia, Stockdale and Sutherland Springs, life hasn’t been normal. It can’t be. Every day last week parents had to explain to their children why the world can be so cruel.

So when Friday came and Floresville High School had a big game against San Antonio Southside, it was a welcome relief. All week, a dome had been around the county. For that night, it had been lifted and the community finally allowed to think of something else.

“We were here two days ago and the Vice President was here,” the native Reed said. “You walk in two days later and it was therapeutic. It was real therapeutic to know that, for two hours, all we were going to do was cheer on our Tigers.”

Before kickoff, a prayer was said over the speakers. Everyone in the stadium stood, bowed their heads and prayed along. The flag at one end at half mast, the National Anthem played. The Tigers wearing all white, just like their fans, despite being the home team.

Then, at the coin toss, Representative John Kuempel was the guest of honor. He had scheduled this date before the shooting but said it was an honor to be with the people he represents.

But once the game started, as Reed said, the community’s mind was somewhere else. Its Tigers jumped out to a lead and kept it going into halftime. Each teams band gathered on the sidelines to perform its usual show. But Floresville’s had its own agenda.

The crowd was quiet during the playing of the song. Parents and students stood, took their hats off and shed tears. One parent, who was standing behind the press box cried and was trying to hide from the rest.

The community had shown its strength through vigils as it mourned through the bracelets to raise money and plenty of fundraisers. But that moment, as the youth of the communities combined to play a song for the victims, was the moment every one needed.

“There are no words to describe how proud we are of our youth, our young men and women,” Reed said. “It gives us a lot of hope for the future to see the good and what’s coming out of this. To know that good is going to prevail over evil. They give us that hope. The way they represented themselves today, the way they represented Floresville, they represented Sutherland Springs, it gives a lot of hope for the future.”

The game ended in disappointment as Southside rattled off 29 unanswered points to beat Floresville. But it didn’t matter. The team was in the playoffs and has at least one more game. The parents and students will still go to school and still get to try to move on in the coming weeks.

For other states, other cities, the game may have been an afterthought. It wouldn’t have mattered and may have even been rescheduled, if possible. But for the small Texas community outside of San Antonio, it was exactly what it needed. Because now, after looking back at it, Reed says they know they’ll be stronger than ever. Now, they’re Sutherland Springs strong. Floresville strong. Southside Strong. Wilson County Strong.

“The community of Sutherland Springs, to know that they are right down the road. Their kids are our kids. We grew up with them,” an emotional Reed said. “Myself personally, I graduated with some of the victims. So it was strengthening to know we could look toward the future and know we are going to come out stronger because of this and closer as a community.”

Gerald Tracy is an assistant editor for TexasHSFootball, covering prep football in the San Antonio region. Follow him on Twitter, @GTracySports, and read more of his content here.

 

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