On Sunday, December 9, 2007 - it was a gray and cold morning with a winter storm looming. Scott, Nate, Talia, and I went to church together as we did every Sunday. Our oldest daughter, Tara, was a student in a prayer internship at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, a place that we loved to go to and had many friends there! We had our plans for the day:
-In the early afternoon, we were excited to be able to go back to our former church and pray with 200 volunteers for a busy week leading up to a Christmas outreach that we had done with them for several years.
-In the evening we were planning to be with a group of friends for a Christmas gathering with music and food.
After we prayed and were visiting with people, I saw Tim, our neighbor and friend walking quickly across the crowded room towards Scott. The first thing that he said to Scott was, “Tara is ok, but she has been trying to reach you! There has been a shooting at New Life Church.” We had left our cell phones in the car because we couldn’t get reception in the building. Scott ran out of the church and I grabbed Talia and Nate and told them to come with me. They saw their dad running and started asking, “What’s wrong?” I said, “I don’t know!”
When we got outside, Tim dialed Tara’s phone number and handed the phone to Scott. All I could hear was that she was crying hysterically and saying she was ok! Scott handed me the phone and I burst into tears hearing how scared she was and feeling so frustrated that I was thirteen hours away. I so wanted to hold and protect her!!! Talia threw her arms around my waist and began sobbing not knowing what had happened. Nate held onto Talia to try and comfort her while Scott ran back into the building to tell our friend Melissa that there had been a shooter in the church where Tara was. She stopped everything and had everyone gather around and pray for Tara and all who were involved.
Everything happened so fast! A woman who was at the rehearsal who was also a flight attendant told Scott that she would give us her frequent flyer miles to get us to Colorado. She made our arrangements and paid for the ticket while we went home and packed knowing that an ice storm was coming. After being delayed in Atlanta, landing during a snowstorm in Denver, driving 3 ½ in what normally took no more than an hour and a half, we arrived at Tara’s home at 3:30 Tuesday morning. She hadn’t slept and we were worn out from our trip, but all of us hugged and held onto each other tightly with the words “I love you” being spoken through tears. We were so grateful to be together - having a deeper appreciation and understanding of the value of family and the gift that we have in friends.
On Wednesday, we attended a service at New Life Church to thank the first responders, to honor the security officer that took action and shared her story, the father who was with two of his daughters and was shot in the parking lot. He was recovering from his wounds but his daughters both died from the shots fired into their car - they were friends of Tara. There were many pastors that came from different churches to offer support and grief counseling to the family that calls New Life home. The doors at the east entrance to the building were boarded and taped from shots fired through the glass and there was still police tape on the columns in the long hallway where we could see bullet holes in them.
It was a very emotional week with more stories and details than I can share here. But when it was time for us to once again say good-bye to our daughter and leave her there, I thought of all of the different stories that we had heard about this particular event and knew that I would never forget how I felt in those first moments.
As I reflected on all of this I was thankful for the time that we get with our family, it is a priceless gift! It’s easy to take it for granted, but the truth is that we never know when the last goodbye will be.
I was grateful for the friends that come around to help in times of need, and try to be that kind of friend for them when they have a need. We each have opportunities that can be missed if we aren’t paying attention.
I now understand how love conquers hate. We witnessed that at the service where everyday people became heroes to the hurting. They didn’t have to do the things that they did to protect, to serve, to minister, or to testify - their love for life and people compelled them to action.
From my experience, I just want to encourage you to:
1-Tell your family often how much you love them!
2-Pay attention to the needs that you can meet in the lives around you.
3-Live your life guided by love so that you will not give in to hate.
There was no amount of planning that could have prepared our family for the events of that day and the phone call that NO parent should ever get. But the love and goodness of our Heavenly Father living in the hearts of His children will shine in the midst of tragedy and conquer the hate of our enemy.