They didn’t know to duck. They didn’t know they would be dodging bullets that day. Leslie Lee, Lone Star sophomore, was 8 years old when Alvin Lee King III burst into Daingerfield First Baptist Church on June 22, 1980, taking the lives of five people and injuring 10 more.
Lee and her sisters were seated in the far right pews when King opened fire in the church.
“Everyone was screaming. My sisters and I moved into the regular pew just a few feet away with my mom and brother,” Lee said. “My mom said, ‘Get down! Get down!’ so we hid under the pew on the floor until the preacher said for everyone to exit the back door. People were bleeding and crying.”
Lee followed the preacher’s instructions and, along with her mother, sister and brothers, made her way through the back door of the church, outside and into a crowd of injured and shocked worshipers.
“I remember seeing a man with his hands and arms covered in blood,” Lee said. “I’m not sure if he was helping someone who was hurt or if he had been hurt himself. My dad, who did not go to church with us, was at home and heard it on the police scanner and was there when we came out of the church.”
Lee grew up attending First Baptist Church with her family. The Sunday following the shooting, the Lees were in attendance with many other congregation members who refused to be deterred from coming back to their house of worship.
Lee’s mother, Barbara Lee, clearly remembers that day.
“We were a little apprehensive to go back. They had taken out some of the bloody furniture and removed the carpet. But when he [King] came in that day, we thought it was a skit. Two weeks before, the church had held a skit with men coming in the back door in military get up,” Barbara said. “They were trying to show us how fortunate we were that we could worship freely without a gun to our head like it is in some countries. That’s why no one got down right away. We thought it was a skit.”
Today, Lee says the events of that day don’t have much of an effect on how she lives her life.
“I don’t really remember it affecting me to the point that I was scared to do things,” Lee said. “I’m sure it affected my life somehow because it was a traumatic event but sometimes it even seems like it was a dream and not real.”