WACO — While the bagpipes played, a crowd of about 150 braced against a cold wind blowing off the Brazos River across the lawn of Indian Springs Park this past week.
During the hour-long ceremony, ATF administrators said the men who died would never be forgotten, and they did not die in vain.
Special Agent Francescka Perot said after the ceremony that the gathering of agents and loved ones was not the only way the agency remembered the men.
“Those agents didn't die in vain,” she said. “I mean their sacrifices have allowed our agents to have better tactical training, better intelligence gathering and better operational security. So all of the events that happened that day were taken into consideration, and it has changed a lot of procedures, not just in the ATF, but in law enforcement in general. Now, I'm not saying that some of those procedures were not already adhered to, but after that event they were standardized.”
A few miles away off EE Ranch Road, Charles Pace, the pastor of the The Branch, The Lord Our Righteousness, did his daily routine, which was look over the property known as Mount Carmel, where the siege with Branch Davidian leader David Koresh took place.
The compound burned to the ground and the rubble was later razed, but the concrete bunker where so many perished in the fires still remains.
At the precise spot where the front doors to the old building were located now hang the doors to a chapel built in 1999.
Pace, hobbling on one good leg and a prosthetic one, stood next to an ATV and talked about the man he began clashing with in 1984 — Vernon Wayne Howell, who would later name himself David Koresh.
However, inside the chapel is a shrine to Koresh and on a memorial wall at the front of the property Koresh's name is displayed.
Pace adamantly stated God used Koresh to bring judgment on the elders of the church for following Koresh and believing he was the messiah as Koresh claimed.
Pace believes founders of the Branch Davidians saw the 1993 incident decades before it happened.
“…They all prophesized that this was going to happen, and that it was going to happen in our own ranks, that someone was going to come and try to make God and Christ a non entity and claim to be God in the flesh and that is what David Koresh did,” he said.
“It wasn't a maniacal religious freak. This guy was bringing judgment and he was also bringing on the very ones that brought judgment on him, which would be the United States of America,” he said.
Though Pace believes the ATF was as much to blame for the deaths of the Davidians, he was not bothered when several SUVs full of agents pulled up onto the private property and began looking around the site.
“It makes me feel that maybe we are going to come to an agreement somehow that this whole thing was orchestrated by the Lord,” he said.
The 63-year-old said the Branch is still active and the church he feels is about to hit a growth spurt.
When asked how many members the church has, Pace replied, “It's growing quickly. We have probably a dozen right now. But I believe it's going to grow rather very quickly over the next year because the truth is coming out.”
The name on the headstone indicates the final resting place of the man known as David Koresh.