Family Member Of Florida Bank Shooting Victim: 'Our Faith Is What Holds Us Together'

Two weeks ago today, when a gunman walked into a SunTrust Bank in south-central Florida and killed five women, the news of the tragedy barely made headlines.

But it shook the small town of Sebring to its core.

“In this area, it is still very much in people’s minds and hearts,” Tim Williams, a pastor at Victory Worship Center in Plant City, Fla., says.

Williams lost his sister-in-law, Ana Piñon-Williams, in the bank shooting. Piñon-Williams, a 38-year-old mother of seven, was a new SunTrust employee.

Williams says he has found a sliver of hope and comfort through his faith and his community.

“Even though it’s not being talked about on national media, our citizens, our families, our churches — you can sense in the city and in the county this coming together,” he tells Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Interview Highlights

Support comes from

On Ana Piñon-Williams’ husband, Chad, leaving the bank just minutes before the shooting

“Chad was at the bank just moments before the shooter came in, and [Chad] brought a lunch to Ana and just had a wonderful short few moments of acts of exchanging, you know, their love for each other and I think she mentioned something about him being the best husband in the world. And that was the last words that he heard from her as he left the bank. The best we can tell, within five or 10 minutes, the shooter entered the bank. So we’re happy that the children didn’t lose two parents that day. And we’re happy that Chad did get a final memory that was very positive, which a lot of people will have that privilege.”

On Chad being a former police officer and if Chad thought he could have stopped the shooter

“The thought does come into his mind and he just has to remind himself that our faith is what holds us together in times like this. The man that committed this atrocious act, he was a trained prison guard. So it wasn’t like he came into this place not knowing how to establish a command presence and take real advantage of this. You know, although my brother’s former law enforcement, I don’t believe that it would have made a difference with him being there except that we may have lost him as well.”

On helping his congregation cope with the grief

“Mainly, by understanding that this human condition that we’re facing today is absolutely nothing new. You know, I’m in no way qualified to speak to medical conditions that cause mental illness, but I am a human being who has found darkness in my own heart. And we believe that this is the main cause, is this darkness, this inhumanity, that each of us bear responsibility for recognizing in [ourselves] and going into our Creator and asking for his light to shine in us so that we can love one another fully. If we love one another, we will not be killing each other.”

On gun access

“I believe our leaders are doing the best they can in this country. They don’t always agree on the solutions to this. But in reality, we cannot legislate the human heart. And ultimately it comes down to the decisions people make.”

Ashley Bailey produced this interview and edited it for broadcast with Kathleen McKenna. Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit
KNPR and NPR Thank-You Gifts including t-shirts hoodies and cap