An Oakland mother was recovering in the hospital Wednesday, after gunfire erupted in the church where she was praying on Christmas Eve. She was struck in the arm, her family said, as she shielded her 7-year-old twins from the hail of bullets.
If not for the heroic actions of Maria Teresa Cordova, 38, her sons - Mario and Christopher - might not be alive today, a family member told NBC Bay Area.
The boys didn't say too much on Wednesday, other than recalling that the gunfire sounded like fireworks and that they were very, very scared.
"Everyone was so afraid," Patricia Cordova said of the shooting outside Centro Evangelistico Bethel in East Oakland about 9 p.m. on Monday. "They were running inside. The pastor kept saying, 'Lay down. Lay down.' ''
Police said the bullets were intended for a 17-year-old who was fired on as he left a liquor store that shares a parking lot with the church in a high-crime area. Two bullets penetrated the wall of the church, where Pastor Edvin Salguero was giving a sermon about the meaning of Christmas. Eight bullet holes were found inside the church.
Cordova was hit by a bullet in her arm as she shielded her twins. One of those boys, Mario Rodriguez Cordova, is pictured to the right, showing a bullet hole in the church wall.
Maria Cordova spoke briefly to NBC Bay Area on Wednesday from the hospital in Spanish, saying that she's doing OK, but in a lot of pain.
When she saw the bullet flying toward Christopher's head, she decided to save him and take the bullet herself. The bullet traveled into her intestines and stomach. Still, she said she's grateful to be alive.
Aside from the Cordova children, Salguero said he helped shepherd about 100 other parishioners, including 20 or 30 crying children, into a back room.
"I don't understand what the reason is people have guns," he said.
The 17-year-old also was hit. He is expected survive.
And that wasn't the only burst of violence in Oakland over Christmas. On Christmas Day, a 32-year-old man fatally shot in West Oakland, pushing the city's homicide rate in 2012 to 127 - the highest in five years.
Ronald Lewis of Oakland was shot multiple times at 24th and Chestnut streets about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. The last time there were 127 homicides was in 2007.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.