RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Thousands of people gathered under the bright lights of a high school football field last night in South Texas. They came to pray, and they came to mourn the 26 lives that were lost Sunday when a gunman opened fire on a church service in the town of Sutherland Springs. Vice President Mike Pence was there with faith leaders and other lawmakers. NPR's Nathan Rott was there, too.
NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: It was a cold night in South Texas. People from all over Wilson County huddled close in the bleachers of Floresville High School's football field, and they stood closer still...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Let's stand in honor of the families of the victims, please, as they march in.
ROTT: ...As some of their neighbors, their friends and their fellow Texans took their seats in a somber section below. It was to this crowd the Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Vice President Mike Pence spoke.
VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: We gather tonight in the wake of an unspeakable act.
ROTT: Both had visited the bullet-riddled First Baptist Church earlier in the day, and a nearby hospital where some of the 20 who were injured are still recovering from their wounds. At the church, Pence admitted that bureaucratic failures helped the gunman procure his weapons, but he said that the administration was working with Congress to make sure that it never happens again. At the vigil, Pence spoke more about healing and about faith, and like many in the crowd, he was defiant.
PENCE: Whatever animated the evil that descended on that church last Sunday, if the attacker's desire was to silence their testimony of faith, he failed.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: That's right.
ROTT: His message was that faith overpowers evil, and that message resonated with many, including Courtney Chilek.
COURTNEY CHILEK: It's nice to see, you know, someone in higher authority is coming to show their support. But, in general, I came here to show support to my family and friends that have been affected by these tragic shootings.
ROTT: Chilek says she knew some of the victims.
CHILEK: Two kids in my daughter's school were two of the children that have passed. And it just hits home, man, it really hits home.
ROTT: But people here are strong, Chilek says, and the vigil shows they're not alone. Nathan Rott, NPR News, Sutherland Springs, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.