It was a little after noon. I was not yet up and ready for the day. I was reading in my bedroom, lost in a good story, when a series of bangs jolted me into complete awareness. Was someone knocking at my door? No, it wasn't that.
Someone was shooting.
Stop being silly, Emily, I told myself. Obviously no one is shooting. This is a good neighborhood. Your neighbors are all so nice. Who would be shooting? Why would they be shooting? I had just seen The Bourne Legacy late the night before. Scenes from the movie still lingered in my memory. Although the loud banging continued to echo through the neighborhood, I quickly convinced myself all I heard was merely loud, annoying construction work. Or firecrackers. Or anything other than a gun.
I got up and began to get ready for the day. The banging sounds stopped for a little while and in typical fashion, I pushed them out of my mind almost immediately. See? No worries. Everything was safe. A few minutes after the noises stopped, loud sirens began to blast through my neighborhood.
Only a large number of police cars and ambulances could make a sound like that.
And then I got the Code Maroon text. Texas A&M has a website and a texting/email tool that sends out mass messages to students when there is danger. I'm notified immediately after robberies occur in Aggieland or when there is a tornado nearby. On this particular day, the Code Maroon texts said that there was an active shooter on a street much too near my own. "...Please avoid the area. Residents in the immediate area need to remain inside their residence. 12:29 PM." Other Code Maroon texts and messages from friends began pouring in at that point.
My first response was to start crying, praying out loud, "Jesus, please let me be safe." And I began to pray for my friends in Aggieland that I knew were already out and about. Then I prayed for the people I didn't know who were certainly being affected by this shooter. My hands were shaking. What a horrible, horrible thing to happen. A shooter in Aggieland.
I paced around my house, wringing my hands and pleading with the Lord. The wait wasn't long. At 12:44, I received a text from Code Maroon saying that the shooter was in custody. Thank God.
I found out later that the shooter, Thomas Caffall, was dead, along with a constable named Brian Bachmann and a civilian named Chris Northcliff. A civilian woman who was moving her child in for college and three officers were also injured during the shooting, but as far as I am aware, they are alive and recovering.
What a horrific, horrific thing.
My mind can't fully wrap around how a man could so casually take the lives of those around him. It's hard for me to understand what kind of a world this is where evil so easily happens, where a violent, terrible tragedy can hit so close to home. My heart is broken for the families that lost loved ones. My heart is broken for the loss of peace and security in my neighborhood. There is great unease now. So much confusion.
It's been a couple of days since the incident. The crime tape is gone. No more police cars. Most of the news reporters have wandered off to newer stories. But the feeling of sorrow in this community has not yet gone away. Our hearts are crying out for those affected by this tragedy and for the brokenness of this world in which we live.
The world is so broken. We wander about our day-to-day lives, living in secure, familiar, comfortable boxes that we are eager to create, but that isn't how life truly is. With the drop of a hat, every pretense can be shattered. Life is a mist. So quickly it can be ended. Whether we are living in the jungles of the Congo or driving our cars through the streets in Oklahoma, life is not certain.
If we are honest with ourselves, it is easy to see the brokenness of this earth. We know that people all around us are hurting. We know that life can be lost. There is sorrow. There is tragedy.
But there is also joy.
Amidst the brokenness of this earth, we have one thing that matters more than anything else: the love of Christ.
John 16:33 says, "You may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." We may live in a broken, painful world, but we will not be here for an eternity. There may be no security for life on this earth, but there is peace in the Lord and hope for eternal life with him. He brings such peace.
Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
August 13, 2012 now carries a horrifying experience that touched many people, not only in my community, but around the United States. No matter where you live, it is devastating and overwhelming to hear of a story where callousness and evil take the spotlight.
But never forget: evil has not won.
In all of this, through every tear and sorrow, there is love. Watch the Aggieland community step up and embrace those who have lost loved ones from this tragedy. There are prayer vigils. There are words of encouragement. The Gospel is being shared. Comfort is offered. Peace has been found. Watch as people all across the United States take a stand of righteous anger against what this shooter did to so many families. Do you see the love shining through? Do you feel the hope?
In this world, there are sorrows and pain. What happened on Monday was so frightening and heartbreaking. But there is still peace. Love continues to outshine every ounce of hatred and brokenness that caused and came from the shooting.
As always, the love of Christ wins.
In peace I will lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.