Gilbert Limones and a co-worker at a funeral home were two of the first targets of the young gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at a primary school in Texasand since then Limones has dedicated most of his days to helping prepare the burials of the victims and comforting the broken families.

On Sunday, Limones changed his role from funeral assistant to preacher to try to comfort the community and explain a horror for which there are no easy answers. He is also the pastor of Casa El Shaddai, a small church located less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the site of the massacre.

“When tragedies happen, all the enemy needs is someone willing to act for him,” Limones told his congregation of about 35 people, gathered for the first time in a former restaurant turned worship space.

Although Limones did not suffer any physical injuries, he said he is exhausted and wracked with guilt that he couldn’t do anything to stop the killing. He has spent hours crying or praying, sometimes both at the same time.

Still, Limones tried to find the words to reassure the faithful he pastors in this mostly Hispanic community of 16,000, who are sad, confused and emotional nearly two weeks after the massacre. Satan brought confusion and pain, he said, but parishioners have a defense.

“Church, your weapon is this”he said, holding up a Bible. It was Limones’ first sermon since the massacre; he was too busy with work at the funeral home last week to give speeches to the faithful.

Limones has salt-and-pepper hair and a wide smile in happy times. He preaches in both Spanish and English, and he was animated to the congregation, which gathers in close proximity to Robb Elementary School and Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home. The two are on opposite sides of Geraldine Street, near where 18-year-old Salvador Ramos shot his grandmother in the face at his home before attacking the school.

On the morning of May 24, Limones and Cody Briseno, another Hillcrest Funeral Home attendant, heard a vehicle crash. A gray Ford pickup truck had fallen into a concrete ditch behind the school and in front of the funeral home, and a man dressed in all black was soon seen standing by the passenger door, according to a search warrant.

According to authorities, Limones and Briseno walked toward the man, but backed off when they realized he was clipping a magazine to a rifle. Then Ramos shot them several times.

Limones says he remembers hearing someone yell about a gun and then turning around, only to hear the “pop, pop, pop” of gunshots behind him. The armed youth was about 150 feet (46 meters) from him, but somehow missed, the pastor said.

He said he got away as soon as he could and called the police. “I yelled at him, I yelled at 911,″ she said.

Ramos then began shooting outside the school and then entered the building through a door that authorities say was unlocked when a teacher closed it. “I saw everything,” Limones recalled.

Inside, 19 fourth graders were shot to death along with two female teachers. The policemen in one of the corridors took more than an hour to confront and kill Ramos.

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