HESSTON — It has been nearly a year since tragedy struck at Excel Industries. Nearly a full year since an angry man went home, got a gun and started shooting at random cars in Newton before entering Excel and killing three people. He was shot and killed by police in one of the deadliest days in Harvey County history.
It is a day few will ever forget, even if they want to. It is a day, according to Brad Burkholder, that the community is still trying to recover from.
“For the past year, people are dealing with it in different ways and are in different stages,” Burkholder said. “... We are impacted in different ways, and we all recover at different speeds as well.”
Burkholder is pastor of Hesston Mennonite Brethren church of Hesston and a member of the Hesston Ministerial Alliance. He and the alliance are organizing a night to remember that fateful day. The ceremony, called “A Community Remembers: 'The Light Shines in the Darkness” will begin at 5 p.m. Feb. 19 at Hesston High School.
The ministerial alliance purposely avoided the actual date of the shootings — Feb. 25.
“We decided not to do the day of, or the Sunday after. We thought it was important to gather before the actual anniversary,” Burkholder said.
The Ministerial Alliance, Excel Industries and the Hesston Community Foundation teamed up to create the observance.
The observance is coming as the result of community requests — people asking all three organizations when something would be done.
“We got to the later part of (2016) and we knew we did not want Feb 25 to pass without something intentional,” said Susan Lamb with the community foundation.
The service will include remembering the dead from that day — Renee Benjamin, 30; Joshua Higbee, 31; Brian Sadowsky, 44, and Cedric Ford, 38. Also remembered will be those injured during the events.
There will also be a moment of hope offered.
“We will have a commissioning. We want to remind people that as they go out in their communities that week … we have an opportunity to meet people where they are at,” Burkholder said. “We need to acknowledge that there is pain and hurt. We all carry with us our past experiences. … We know that not everyone who comes will have the same belief system spiritually, but we need each other.”