Central Church Pastor Jud Wilhite was struck by one passage in particular from a computer file slain police officer Charleston Hartfield created about a year ago.
Hartfield opened the document with the words, “If you’re reading this, then I’ve gone home.” He titled the file “Charleston Hartfield Memorial Service.”
“I just want the truth,” Wilhite said, reading the Metropolitan Police Department officer’s words to hundreds in the Henderson congregation Saturday evening. “None of this exaggeration of how great of a guy I was.”
Hartfield’s wife, Veronica, shared that file with Wilhite on Saturday, before an evening service that paid tribute to first responders.
“He made that document a year ago, because you never know,” Wilhite said.
Veronica Hartfield, gripping a bouquet and wiping away tears, joined a group of about 50 first responders onstage during the service. Her 34-year-old husband was one of the 58 people killed in the Oct. 1 mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Strip.
People had packed into the church’s 5 p.m. service, which was devoted to remembering the shooting victims, praying for the injured, honoring first responders and working through grief.
Wilhite called police and fire, emergency medical services workers, hospital employees and civilians who ran to help when the stream of shots started to the stage. Congregants reached toward the stage and prayed for the first responders. They sent their hands skyward during songs.
The stage in the church’s auditorium was filled with white crosses for each of the 58 victims of the mass shooting. Each cross bore a heart — most red and one blue.
Wilhite said he will continue talking about “Vegas Strong” and navigating layers of grief for the next several weeks.
“We’ve been through something traumatic over the past week. Whether you were there or not,”he said. “There’s only one way to get through this — together.”