JACKSONVILLE – Hundreds gathered Wednesday evening in the center of the Jacksonville Landing to sing hymns and hear powerful prayers at for vigil reflecting on those slain and wounded in a mass shooting at the downtown mall three days ago.
The ceremony, organized by First Baptist Church Jacksonville, brought together the city's business, church and civic leaders for a solemn vigil in the wake of Sunday's shooting.
"The closeness of this tragedy shatters any sense of safety created by the distance of other shootings," First Baptist senior pastor Dr. Heath Lambert said of the recent bloodshed.
Two men were killed and 10 others injured Sunday when a 24-year-old man burst into the Good Luck Have Fun game bar at The Landing and opened fire on rival gamers at a "Madden NFL 19" tournament, police said. The shooter took his own life afterward.
Those who attended the vigil heard from several pastors representing churches throughout Jacksonville.
While they all offered their own prayers, the message was the same: Let's all work together to create a better community.
“May we have compassion for those lives that are broken, that were broken here on Sunday.”
“Lord God, let us look beyond ethnic, economic and educational backgrounds and simply look at each other as children of God.”
One woman spoke on behalf of her brother, who was at the Landing during Sunday’s mass shooting.
“Lord, we are asking why did this happen? Why we had to go through all this?” she prayed as her brother stood by her side.
During the vigil, first responders were praised for their actions following the mass shooting.
“It’s great to see communities in the city come together, to see that despite there was violence, we came tighter in peace, and to see different people who are able to show that Jacksonville will stand strong," said Joe Goosby, who attended the prayer vigil.
Jennifer Pearson said she believes the prayer vigil can lead to change in Jacksonville.
“Even in horrible things, God can bring up good," Pearson said. "And so my prayer is that this is a turning point for all of our communities; that if we see something, we say something; that we see someone hurting and we do something.”
Then the vigil ended with everyone singing "Amazing Grace."
Lambert encouraged churchgoers to find ways to serve the community and pray for those involved, from the victims and their families to the first responders and city officials grappling with violence.
"Confronted with the unvarnished evil of Sunday's shooting, we must counter it with love," said Lambert. " ... Right now, one of the most tangible ways we can love our city is with our prayers."