Survivors remember 4th anniversary of Knoxville church shooting

Survivors remember 4th anniversary of Knoxville church shooting

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"I think being mad at this point for me is almost irrelevant. It's so sad and then you've got so much to do, so many plans, you've got to live," Joe Barnhart said. "I think being mad at this point for me is almost irrelevant. It's so sad and then you've got so much to do, so many plans, you've got to live," Joe Barnhart said.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - It was a Sunday morning four years ago when a gunman opened fire at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger were killed. Six others were wounded.

East Tennesseans were reminded of the tragedy last week in the wake of the Colorado theater massacre.

For retired professor and author Joe Barnhart, life has changed profoundly. He tries to focus on the future, but said he thinks every day about Kraeger, his close friend and writing partner, who died next to him in the sanctuary that day.

"I heard the noise. I thought it was part of the play or a firecracker, and then I saw Linda Kraeger lying on the floor," Barnhart said.

He and his brother, Jack, along with his sister-in-law, Betty, and daughter, Linda Chavez, were all wounded in the attack.

"Luckily I got shot in the lungs and the head, nothing serious," Barnhart said. "My daughter, Linda, her eye is pretty much gone."

The family has physically recovered as much as possible. The grandchildren, who were there that day, have had counseling, but they miss their Aunt Linda.

"To have such a good person as Linda Kraeger, I can't tell you what a truly good human being she was, to see her shot down all at once. It was very, very hard. Luckily, the kids have very good memories," Barnhart said.

He says it also helped that the confessed shooter, Jim Adkisson, pleaded guilty and is serving life in prison. 

"I think being mad at this point for me is almost irrelevant. It's so sad and then you've got so much to do, so many plans, you've got to live," Barnhart said.

But the news of what had happened in that Colorado movie theater last week stunned him. He knows the pain those victims and their loved ones are feeling.

"All the plans they had...just wiped out in a moment," he said.

TVUUC had a brief, private remembrance ceremony at noon Friday. The congregation has also released a statement on the Colorado shooting:

"The terrible mass shooting in an Aurora, Colorado, theater that has killed at least 12 people and wounded many more evokes the compassion of our Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist congregation.

Our hearts resonate with the fear and grief the people of Aurora are feeling at this moment. We share their sorrow because we have known it firsthand, and we mourn the loss of dear ones and the pain inflicted on the survivors.

We lift up the people of Aurora that they may know comfort and healing.

We long for and will work toward a time when such tragedies are no longer commonplace, when madness and terror have no role in our lives.

May the sun come up tomorrow on a healing world."

The church shooting affected not just the those in the sanctuary, but the community as a whole. 

6 News talked about that with Knoxville Deputy Police Chief Gary Price, who got the emergency call while he was at his own church teaching Sunday school on that morning four years ago. 

"It's a place folks typically feel safe. Most people feel safe when they go to church and that was impacted probably for everyone in our community and our region," Price said.

The worship service scheduled for this coming Sunday at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church is titled "A Meditation on the Place and Nature of Faith in a World of Death and Loss."

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