Hesston hosts event to remember 2016 shooting

Hesston, Kan. (KWCH) Tragedy struck the Hesston community on February 25, 2016 when Cedric Larry Ford opened fire at an Excel building.

A gunman killed three people at the Excel Industries plant in Kansas Thursday, February 25, 2016.

People in the community remember the event and are showing support for the victims and their families.

“It is the one-year remembrance of the excel shooting,” said Susan Lamb, Director for the Hesston Community Foundation.

The foundation and Hesston Ministerial Alliance are hosting "The Light Shines in the Darkness" on February 19 at 5:00 p.m. in the Hesston High School gymnasium.

“We wanted that to happen in advance of the actual anniversary so individuals who wanted to have time for private, quiet reflection on the actual anniversary date we could give them that," said Lamb.

The event takes place during AVDS--a program sponsored by Hesston Community college that takes place annually. This year's theme is When the Unthinkable Happens and it focuses on handling tragedy as a whole.

"It came from quite a bit of conversation about the shooting that happened at Excel," said Dallas Stutzman, Director of Alumni and Church Relations for Hesston Community College. "This particularly came as a significant thing to do because of a year ago."

Lamb says the placement of the remembrance service during the AVDS conference was intentional.

She also says the community recently participated in a group reading of "The Little Book of Trauma Healing." Lamb believes it's important to heal together.

"We feel like you have to acknowledge that loss and come together in healing and recovery and if you don't plan intentionally and walk that journey with people along the way, I think it maybe feels like they've been abandoned," said Lamb.

KWCH also spoke with Pastor Brad Burkholder who helped organize the Sunday service.

“I just felt like God was putting me in a position to have the opportunity," he said.

Burkholder worked closely with the families affected by the tragedy. He says he felt humbled to pray with them and help them through the mourning process.

“There’s just so many people that it’ll be years, for the rest of their life they’ll be dealing with what happened on February 25th, 2016,” said Burkholder.

Stutzman agrees.

"I think I've come to realize how complex these situations are; how multilevel they are and how far the ripple affect goes," he said. "You can't understand or know all of those elements."

He says the community is finding their way through understanding the tragedy, but says it's easy to move back in the healing process.

"Trauma has some interesting affects on us, but we're trying to find our way through that," said Stutzman.

Pastor Burkholder says it's important to be emotionally ready for the anniversary of the shooting.

"We feel like we have an opportunity to help prepare our community and prepare the workers and those that would be there," said Burkholder. "It's important to me to be involved in it."

Organizers anticipate anywhere from 300 to 1000 people to attend the service February 19.