Joann Ward, a courageous mother of four, lost her own life trying to save her young children from a gunman who stormed their small Texas church during Sunday morning services.
" ... You were sooo strong today, babe... shielding your babies from the shooter like you did today - WOW! 'No greater love hath a man than this, that he may lay down his life for another,'" Ward's friend Vonda Greek Smith wrote on her Facebook page.
Ward's quick thinking spared two of her children's lives.
The madman's rage left 26 dead and 24 others injured in the tiny Texas town of about 600 near San Antonio. About 50 attended the church service that fateful day.
Bullets rang out as service was closing at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Ward immediately jumped into action and pushed her eldest daughter, Rihanna, to the floor, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Then she embraced her three younger children shielding them from the bullets raining down on churchgoers.
Her husband, Chris Ward, was not in church that morning because he’d worked the night before, according to the New York Post. In the first hours after the shooting, some media erroneously reported Chris Ward was the shooter.
Chris was awakened by his brother, Michael Ward, who delivered the horrific news.
Brooke Ward, 5, died at the scene.
Emily Garza, 7, was transported to a hospital, but later died from a severed artery, New York Daily News reported.
Rihanna, 9, survived the attack.
'I didn't get shot because I was hiding, and Momma covered Emily, Ryland and Brooke,' Rihanna, who had her glasses shot off her face but survived the attack, recounted, according to Smith's Facebook post.
Chris ran straight to the church once he heard the news, The Daily Mail reported. He didn't even bother putting on his shoes.
When Chris and Michael got to the church, they "started pulling out bodies," Michael told The Dallas Morning News.
The two brothers found Joann and Brooke dead.
Michael carried Ryland out of the church "in his own arms," Michael said.
Ryland, still hospitalized, underwent surgery for multiple gunshots to his small body.
" ... He was shot 5 times once in the elbow, twice in the stomach, and twice in the leg," according to the GoFundPage set up by Heather Bradley, a family member.
There are at press time mixed reports about his condition.
More than $50,000 has been raised for the family since the GoFundMe page was set up Sunday.