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Faith, law enforcement leaders reflect on Cornerstone Church shooting, one year later

Vivian Flores and Eden Montang were shot and killed on their way to a church service on June 2, 2022. One year later, their community remembers them fondly.

AMES, Iowa — One year ago, Cornerstone Church Lead Pastor Mark Vance was in a meeting when the unthinkable happened. 

"You never in your life anticipate having a call come to you to say there's an active shooter in the parking lot of your church," Vance said. "I was here at the church, had a meeting with our elders, 100 feet from it when it happened."

Vance said off-duty Ames Police Commander Jason Tuttle was also in that meeting and sprang into action to try and help. 

"My first memories are watching my friend rush into the middle of this, and not being able to comprehend what's happening," Vance said. 

"This is certainly nothing that any law enforcement or first responder in any community wants to hear the report of an active shooter," said Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald. 

Tuttle and sheriff's deputies arrived on scene nearly the same time, finding Eden Montang, Vivian Flores and their attacker, Johnathan Whitlach, deceased. Whitlatch and Montang had previously been in a relationship.

"Our hearts still go out to all the families who lost them that night, the families of the two young ladies who died that night," Fitzgerald said. "And the shooter of course is a bad guy, but he also has family and their hearts have got be aching over this every day as well."

Vance said in the days and months that followed, the community rallied around one another, courageously facing this trauma and supporting each other every step of the way.

"It's really hard always to walk through suffering, it's harder to walk through it alone," Vance said. "We've never been alone in that suffering, Christ has been with us, and we've been there for each other. And so you just have to learn how to lean into that in a time when it seems like everything else is crumbling."

Vance lit up when describing how he remembers Vivian and Eden. 

"Both Eden and Vivian were vibrant, lively, full of life," Vance said. "Eden had an infectious laugh. Vivian was always dancing, always making jokes. They loved Iowa State, they loved their family, and they loved Jesus."

There will be two services this Sunday honoring Vivian and Eden at 8:45 and 10:45 a.m. People can also donate to a scholarship in Vivian's name by heading to the Cornerstone website.

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