A number of people have asked after me and my family, and many probably aren't aware of what church I go to, so I'm posting this here now.
I am a member of the TVUUC, and was there Sunday for the shooting.
Remember after the VA tech shooting, and people--at least me--were wondering "what would I do if something like that happened to me?"
Well, now I can answer that question from experience.
The answer is: after the first shot, look around confusedly. Was that something big falling over? The sound system shorting out? After the second shot, and smelling gunpowder, you will figure out that someone is, in fact, shooting at people in your vicinity. Then you will dive down between some pews on top of your family, and, as your wife yells, "Dial 911!" dial 911, but pay no attention to your phone as you do your best to scan the area while still keeping your head down. After seeing some members of the congregation go after the shooter, sprint across the sanctuary to where your daughter is, to make sure she's safe. You will remember seeing the shooter's face. You will also remember seeing people you know with blood on them.
Jennifer, Hannah, Zeke and I are fine, if a bit shaken. Jen's father was wounded and is being treated at UT hospital, but is doing well. They may release him tomorrow.
Thank you for thinking of us. It's been... the most interesting day of my life. My son, having heard similar sentiments expressed several times today, observed "This is the worst day of my life." I told him, "Well, that's good, because you're 4 1/2. All the rest of your days will be better than this, and you've got a lot of them coming up." He thought that was pretty funny. I think it's pretty lucky. As my wife pointed out, if the shooter had shot to the left instead of the right, we'd have been right in the line of fire, and wouldn't even have seen it coming. And as she also pointed out--and this is something I can't think about too much just yet--just about all the people she loves most in the world were in that room: me, her two children, her mother-in-law, her parents, and a very close friend who came to the performance.
I also have to say thank you to at least three heroes that I know of. Greg McKendry, one of the two who died, apparently blocked the first shot, saving who knows how many people. After the second shot, several members of the congregation charged the shooter. Among them were John Bohstedt, a history professor at UT, and... well, as a parent I know him as "*** Birdwell's father." There were others. According to Jennifer, the shooter had a lot of ammo. A lot. If he hadn't been stopped, even the 3 minute response time from the police wouldn't have averted an even greater tragedy.
There has been some speculation as to why the shooter did it. Some speculate mental illness--and anyone who would do something like this has to be at least a bit mentally ill--but some point out that we may have been targeted because we are a welcoming congregation. I won't speculate until we know more. I will say, though, that we'd not long ago put up a banner announcing the fact that everyone is welcome in our church, regardless of race or sexuality. If this shooting was politically-motivated, well... it wouldn't be the first time we've dealt with hatred because of our beliefs. Back in the fifties, before we had our own church building, many people refused to rent space to us because we had a mixed-race congregation. We're not afraid to do the right thing, and, even after these events, we will still be unafraid. We are a loving and welcoming congregation, and we are strong.
Thanks again to all those who are keeping us in their thoughts and prayers.
My UU friends are the only people I know who actually live their spiritual beliefs every day. They definitely walk the walk, so it is perhaps understandable that someone with so much hate in his heart would naturally seek out a group of those who have NONE.
The man who sacrificed his life for the kids' lives is a true hero in every sense of the word, and I hope his friends and family know how grateful we all are, across the country, for his selfless act of bravery.
The rest of us send loving thoughts and prayers your way every day and wish we could do much more.