Hesston remembers Excel shooting one year later


HESSTON, Kan. (KSNW) – A year after the Excel shooting in Hesston, the community continues to heal together.

This Friday, Feb. 25 marks one year since the shooting at Excel Industries, a manufacturing plant in Hesston. Four lives were lost, Josh Higbee, Renee Benjamin and Brian Sadowsky and the shooter, Cedric Ford along with 17 injuries. All names of the deceased were read at “A Community Remembers”, a memorial at Hesston High School commemorating the upcoming year anniversary.

“Just showing that we’re still together as a community and just being able to draw on each other’s togetherness really helped,” Jeanette Claassen, a Hesston resident and wife of an Excel employee said following the service.

Along with the Hesston Ministerial Alliance, three panelists spoke about their experiences since the shooting took place and how they’ve turned to faith for their fears.

“In life it seems like there were so many things I could control, but this was just so big, so massive. And there was nothing I could do to fix it and reaching to God for hope in a time of despair, it was all I had. That’s really what’s brought me to where I am now, I believe,” Andy Wray, a panelist said.

Wray works at Excel as well as for Hesston Fire/EMS department. He spoke about his experience to a large crowd in the Hesston High gymnasium about how he came home from work that night and embraced his wife, finding healing in the Bible as well as a hymn. He did some healing Sunday night as well.

“It’s just a great message, there’s still hope. While we’re still grieving, God is still there, God is still good in the challenges we’re still facing,” Wray said.

The KBI awarded a plaque to the city of Hesston for their community efforts following the shooting.

Though the actual anniversary isn’t until Friday, chaplain Amy Claassen said the event was intentionally held ahead of the one year anniversary, as the day can bring understandable grief to those still grappling with the wounds.

“I think it’s important to recognize how tricky grief is and how it suppresses us and to be prepared even if you weren’t directly connected or emotionally connected this may bring back bruises that make for reoccurring trauma,” Claassen said.

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