A brave mother of four died while shielding her children from bullets during Sunday’s massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. When the gunfire erupted Joann Ward reportedly pushed one of her daughters, Rihanna Garza, 9, to the ground to shield her from harm. She also used her body to block bullets from hurting her three younger children, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She saved two of her children’s lives. Rihanna was barely injured, according to the New York Post. Ryland Ward, 5, was shot four times and has undergone surgery. He is currently in critical condition. Tragically, Brooke Ward, 5 and Emily Garza, 7, died in addition to their fearless mother.
‘‘I didn’t get shot because I was hiding, and Mama covered Emily, Ryland and Brooke,” Vonda Greek Smith, a friend of the family said, repeating what Rihanna told her.
Joann’s husband Chris was at home sleeping during the shooting. He had just finished working a night shift. His brother woke him to tell him the devastating news.
“They shot up the church, everyone’s been shot,” Michael Ward reportedly told his brother, according to Buzzfeed. The men rushed to the church to look for their family. Michael told the Dallas Morning News that he carried Ryland out of the bloody church.
In all, 26 people were killed and around 20 others were injured. It’s the deadliest massacre inside a place of worship in American history, according to the Daily Beast. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called it the largest mass shooting" in the state's history. And, possibly the most disturbing statistic: Two of America’s five deadliest mass shootings in modern history have occurred in the last 35 days, CNN reports. The victims range in age from an unborn child to 72 years old.
“Joann was the most wonderful mom any child could wish for and her children were always laughing and loving life,” relative John Alexander wrote on a GoFundMe page for the family.