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  • First a Monster, Then a Hero: Something Inspirational Emerges from El Paso Shooting

    Surge Summary: A pistol-packing Army private rushes to help and save endangered children in the midst of El Paso’s terrible mass-killing.

    Jesus spoke about life’s “wheat and the tares” – the “good” stuff and the “bad” stuff growing up together around us. The recent spate of horrific mass-shootings actually punctuates the point.

    From Nate Hochman/National Review:

    [A]s humanity reveals itself as capable of unthinkable evil, so too it demonstrates a tendency for moral courage and heroic selflessness. The two opposing dispositions often reveal themselves simultaneously, in relation to each other; this weekend was no different. On Saturday, as a white-supremacist terrorist shot and killed at least 22 people, injuring many more, in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Private First Class Glendon Oakley Jr. risked his life in the oncoming fire to save the innocent.

    Oakley is a 22-year-old automated-logistics specialist in the Army, recently back stateside following a deployment in Kuwait. Visiting a sporting-goods store near the Walmart, he encountered an agitated young boy bursting into the store to inform shoppers of the active shooter. Oakley didn’t take the lad seriously at first, “[H]e’s just a little kid,” he remarks.  “[A]re you going to believe him?”

    Oakley was quickly met with the horrific reality: the sound of gunshots and screams, masses of people running everywhere. A visible part of the chaos? Young children — without their parents.

    That’s what kicked Oakley into action. As the possessor of a concealed-carry license in Texas, the off-duty Army private often carries a gun in public. Saturday was no exception. Pulling out his Glock 9mm, he made his way to one of the mall’s open play areas, where a group of children were stranded.

    “I was just focused on the kids, I wasn’t really worried about myself. So I just put my head down and just ran as fast as I could. They were anxious, when they were in my arms, they were trying to jump out of my arms, but [I was] trying to keep them as tight as possible. They are kids, so they don’t understand what is going on.”

    When they finally arrived at the mall’s exit, they “ran into a whole batch of police pointing their guns at us,” says Oakley. Once he saw them, he says he put away his gun and pulled out his phone camera “in case they were going to shoot me and started recording while I was running.”

    Growing up in a rough neighborhood in Killeen, Texas, Oakley had had his share of run-ins with police, spending some time in jail for minor marijuana charges and fighting. He was also no stranger to gun violence.

    “I’ve been in pointless shootouts at a young age,” he said in an interview. “Killeen is a lot of pointless shootouts.”

    The scenario that followed is a familiar one:  despite Oakley’s background, an Army recruiter took a chance on him, helping him enlist.

    The military, no surprise, changed his life, and he credits his army experience for his courageous actions during those deadly minutes in the El Paso carnage. It was just what anyone who’d been trained in the military would do.

    Then there’s this: “I was thinking about — as if it was my child, if I had one, if my child was in the same predicament, what I’d want somebody else to do.”

    But at a press conference that he reluctantly gave the day after the shooting, Oakley’s chest did not swell with pride at the descriptions of his own heroism. Rather, he broke down and wept for the children he could not save — for the little bodies that he was unable to protect.

    “I understand it was heroic, and I’m looked at as a hero for it, but that wasn’t the reason for me,” said Oakley. “I’m just focused on the kids I could not get, and the families that were lost. It hurts me, like, they were part of me. . .. The spotlight should not be on me right now. I want the media to go out to the families that lost their children and make sure they’re okay . . . because the focus should not be on me.”

    Wheat and tares. Bravery and heinousness. An evil man going low, a decent man stepping up. A fiend, a self-sacrificing American.

    Life in microcosm.

    “We all weep with Glendon Oakley,” reflects Hochman.

    As we attempt to fathom the tragedies of the weekend’s dual mass shootings, human reason fails us. Perhaps this is for the best. In El Paso, as in Dayton, Ohio, the aggrieved are often numbed by the magnitude of their own devastation and their inability to understand it. Oakley, too, is not immune to this. It seems clear, in his interviews, that he can’t yet make sense of it all.

    Tragedies are often complex and hard to comprehend, but heroism is a simple act. Oakley’s display of it is inspiring, even as he shies away from praise — as any true hero does. We owe him our thanks.

    The El Paso atrocity, it turns out, wasn’t just about a monster.

    Image: Screen shot; twitter; MSNBC; https://twitter.com/MuhammadLila/status/1157740357997801473


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