Remembering, Mourning, Healing

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"One year later, I still miss my brother," said Dr. Christopher Cockrell, brother of Sam Cockrell, Jr., who died at his workplace July 8, 2003.

One year ago, the eyes of the world were squarely focused here after Lockheed-Martin employee Doug Williams went on a shooting spree killing six co-workers and wounding eight others.

The memorial service was held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Meridian.

"These were individuals that were part of this community. They were friends. They were people from down the street. They were neighbors, so it impacted everyone around here," said Dr. Cockrell.

Loved ones came forward to give a testimony and to light a candle in honor of each of the victims. Many say the tragedy has actually strengthened their families and taught them to appreciate life and to never take it for granted.

"Because you don't know how many days you have here and the most important things are God and family," said Ricky Fitzgerald, brother of slain victim, Mickey Fitzgerald.

"It has gotten us to realize that we only have a short period of time together so we have to enjoy one another, love one another, forgive one another."

At a reception before the service, family and friends talked, hugged and shared how they've been coping for the past twelve months.

Their eyes told the story, of memories of an ordinary day that turned tragic.

"It's hard to cope with because I lost all of my close friends," said Ida Delk, a retired Lockheed employee.

Gone but not forgotten is how family and friends describe their loved ones.

"With the other families, they seem like they're doing good but with me it hurts me, I tell you," said Mildred Sanford, who lost her niece, Delois Bailey.

Although not always easy, family and friends say the past year has taught them how to overcome.

"It's been a really rough year, but I know that Mickey would want us to go forward somehow, someway and we're learning and trying to do that," said Tammie Fitzgerald, whose husband died that day.

For family and friends, 'moving forward' has been done in many ways. Beverly Cockrell, the wife of Sam Cockrell, said although she no longer lives in the area, one thing that will not change is her commitment to her husband's legacy.

"We had started out talking about a partnership evangelism," Cockrell said. "My partner is gone but Christ will stand in and Sam's legacy is going to live on."

And 'live on' it is in many different ways.

"I am now part of an organization out of Nashville, Tenn., called
'Partners in Struggle'," said Dr. Chris Cockrell. "And what we do is, we travel around the nation and talk to people who had loved ones tragically killed. It has really catapulted me into another arena and that's what my brother would've wanted."

Finally, something else that loved ones say the victims would want is forgiveness.

"I would like to say to his (Doug Williams') family that we love them and we understand that they couldn't have helped it because I believe they tried," said Jinnelle Miller, widow of the Rev. Charles Miller. "And I want them to know that they're forgiven and I want them to be able to go on and try to live productive lives after what happened.

"What happened last year, it's bigger than Meridian," said Beverly Cockrell. "It's bigger than anything and if we let bitterness and anger take over, we are just as wrong as what happened a year ago."