Ames Cornerstone Church shooting: One year later, congregation reflects on healing process

More than 150 vehicles were present at the commemorative memorial service for Eden Mariah Montang, 22, and Vivian Renee Flores, 21, held at Cornerstone Church. The vehicles were lined up on Highway 30 at 8:30 a.M. On Sunday. The tragic incident that claimed the lives of these two young women occurred at the church’s parking lot on June 2, 2022. The service, which the two women were attending, was conducted by the church’s college ministry known as Salt Company.

The gunman, John Whitlatch, took his own life that evening.

Vance mentioned in an interview on Sunday that he experienced a deep anger over the senseless deaths. He further stated that he was overwhelmed with emotion in the days following the shooting.

Vance exclaimed, “It was as if I emerged from a horrific nightmare, it felt surreal. That’s the sensation I experienced, but I’m unsure of the specific sentiment.”

He said that he still remembers the sounds of his families’ reactions when they learned that the ones they loved had died, and he tries to describe those emotions as “absolute shock” and “utter” today.

“That was a sound of unimaginable sorrow and despair,” he stated.

In his memorial, he and Cornerstone founder Troy Nesbitt met with the shooter’s family and eventually found compassion, he says. But then.

“There is a family on the opposite side of this malicious action, as well,” Vance stated. “What about their sorrow?”

“As you navigate through a distinct sorrow, we have been offering our prayers for all of you. It is important for us to convey that we share in the grief of losing John. Furthermore, we would like to emphasize that we also mourn the loss of John. Throughout this profound period of mourning, we have been supporting both families. Within the community of Cornerstone Church and Salt Company, we grieve the loss of Eden and Vivian. Vance mentioned that he delivered a letter he had written for the family during the memorial service. The letter expressed our collective mourning for the loss of Eden and Vivian within the community of Cornerstone Church and Salt Company.”

We pray to God for the best. We love you. We harbor no bitterness towards John. We cannot imagine the depth of internal turmoil and pain that would express itself in this way. The letter included a note of forgiveness from his congregation for the deaths.

People pay tribute at the memorial rock for Eden Montang and Vivian Flores, who were murdered one year ago in the Cornerstone Church parking lot.

The journey of recovery has been a mix of shadows, illumination, and ‘struggling with the divine’

The parking area on Sunday was packed with almost 2,000 people in attendance to pay tribute to Montang and Flores.

Martha and Gabe Noll have been attending Cornerstone for 15 years, although they said they were not present at the evening church shooting in the past challenging year. They have four children.

“That,” Martha Noll expressed, “I am still in the process of comprehending.” “That,” I genuinely cherished hearing him articulate, “regarding grappling with God and refraining from disengaging,” Martha Noll conveyed, “However, the statement made by Mark (Vance) during his sermon (on Sunday).”

In his sermon, Vance emphasized three elements that arose from the tragedy of the previous year: obscurity, illumination, and Jesus Christ.

Vance informed the assembly, “However, when we express that illumination radiates into the obscurity, we must acknowledge that the obscurity is genuine.” “Ceremonies are significant because they impart significance to the suffering … To introduce illumination into this location,”.

‘It was a whirlwind of tending to individuals’: Vance remembers June 2, 2022.

The blackness of that night was excruciatingly genuine.

“A moment like that is etched into your memory,” Vance stated following the memorial service on Sunday.

A year ago, nine executives from Cornerstone convened at the venue to engage in their weekly gathering, assembling two days later than their typical timetable.

He mentioned, “Typically, I would never attend the church on a Thursday evening. Therefore, we rescheduled it for Thursday because I had a clash with our usual Tuesday evening gathering.”

Flores and Montang attended The Salt Company, the college ministry of the church, on Thursday evenings, as that is when they also gather.

Moments after the first shots were fired, Nesbitt, who was inside the church with other leaders, received a phone call about an active shooter in the parking lot. He is both the leader of the church and the commander of the Ames police.

After Tuttle and other officials at the site confirmed the safety of the area, Vance stated that he dedicated the rest of the night providing comfort.

“It was a whirlwind of tending to individuals. I was embracing individuals. Praying with individuals who were completely shaken,” Vance said.

At 6:51 p.M. On that evening, law enforcement received numerous emergency calls. Just one minute after, law enforcement officers were deployed and reached the location at 6:56.

At 6:59 p.M. The gunman, Whitlatch, had passed away due to an apparent self-inflicted gunshot injury to the head.

Officials from the Sheriff’s department in Story County stated that Montang had recently terminated a romantic partnership with Whitlatch, who had multiple instances of domestic violence reported against him in Iowa courts. Prior to the incident, Montang had submitted a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend for assaulting her just two days prior.

Flores and Montang walked across the parking lot towards the church. Although Valarie, the twin sister of Flores, was not physically injured in the attack, she was with them.

Vance arrived at his residence after his household had retired for the night, following extensive hours of assisting his community in coping with the aftermath of the shooting incident.

Vance expressed, “It was an incredibly significant initial moment for me. I contacted my father and attempted to comprehend and embrace the entirety of it emotionally and mentally. Upon arrival, around 6:30 in the morning, at the location where the girls had passed away, I sat down, wept, and offered prayers. The following morning, on Friday, I woke up early and drove to the church. The rush of adrenaline was still coursing through my body,” Vance explained. “I became aware that I was still visibly trembling, so I positioned myself beside my wife and rested.

During Sunday’s service, Vance announced that the Vivian Flores Scholarship will be endowed at Iowa State University for a student who is preparing for a career in veterinary medicine. The scholarship will be awarded to Reyna Arvizo, a pre-vet student from Mexico whose family immigrated as immigrants.

With an extra $15,000 to surpass the minimum amount needed for an endowed scholarship, the church intends to make a donation. The scholarship, created by Cornerstone Church, has raised approximately $40,000 out of the $50,000 objective.

The scholarship in memory of Vivian R. Flores accepts checks payable to the ISU Foundation. Contributions towards the scholarship are still encouraged through the Cornerstone website or the Iowa State Foundation. Nevertheless.

The deaths of Vivian and Eden were granted for many things that many people took. It has become Technicolor. Life has become much more beautiful since this tragedy. Life has become much more beautiful to me. Whether you are 81 or 21 years old, this tragic death reinforces the fact that life is very short. “Vance said,” whether you are 81 or 21 years old, this tragic death reinforces the fact that life is very short.