Hesston community comes together as anniversary of Excel shooting approaches

HESSTON, Kan. Almost one year after the deadly shootings at the Excel Plant in Hesston, the community comes together to show love and support for survivors and to remember those who were killed.

On Feb. 25, 2016, police believe gunman Cedric Ford entered the plant at Excel Industries, upset after receiving a no-contact order from his ex-girlfriend, before shooting 17 people, killing 3 and injuring 14.

Hesston's police chief then fatally shot Ford, ending the threat.

Sunday, the community decided to gather at Hesston High School, a week ahead of the one-year-anniversary of the attack.

"Knowing that (the anniversary) is coming up, a lot of people don't recognize that anniversaries can be very hard with grief and trauma," Chaplain Amy Claassen says.

Sunday, in a service reminiscent of the community prayer vigil held at the high school just days after the shooting, hundreds gathered to pay their respects and help each other through a difficult time. They turned to God and each other to find strength to move on.

With prayers and song Sunday, those gathered at Hesston High School promised to shine their light bright, choosing forgiveness over vengeance. They remembered and prayed for, not just the three innocent people killed--Renee Benjamin, Joshua Higbee and Brian Sadowsky--but also Ford.

The group gathered Sunday shared thoughts about what everyone has gone through and what they hope to see in their own lives once they get past the painful anniversary.

"While we're still grieving, God is good. God's still there in the challenges that we're still facing," says first responder Andy Wray.

If you want to help those affected by last February's shooting, you can donate to the Hesston Foundation here