An overlooked detail in yesterday’s terrible shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee is that one of the heroes who tackled the shooter is UT-Knoxville historian John Bohstedt. According to the New York Times, Bohstedt jumped on shooter Jim D. Adkisson while he paused to reload in spite of the other dangers Bohstedt and the other congregants might have faced. According to church member Sheila Bowen, “[Bohstedt] moved very quickly and he assessed the situation very quickly. . . . He’s sitting on this guy. [The shooter] had a package with him, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, and John was afraid that that might be a bomb, so John was screaming at everyone to get out.”
Melissa at Shakesville notes that the Unitarian Univeralist church was targeted by Adkisson because he hated liberalism in general, and gay people in particular. (The UU church is very progressive, invites gay members, and ordains gay ministers.) Looks like you might want to start wearing that high-fashion kevlar vest pretty much everywhere in the U.S. these days, my friends.
When I hear news of the latest (yes, sadly, we can only assume this is the latest, not the last) shooting in a school, a church, or other public spaces, like many of you perhaps, I wonder how I would react and if I would muster the kind of metal clarity and physical courage that Professor Bohstedt showed. His example is very inspiring, but what a world we live in where that kind of bravery is called upon so frequently. My heart goes out to the TVUUC community and their friends and allies in Knoxville and beyond.
UPDATED, 7/29/08: See this description of the attack at TVUUC by a church member who was present Sunday morning. She gives a moving account of the heroism of Greg McKendry, the first shooting victim who was shot at point-blank range trying to shield others from the bullets. She also reports that other people saw John Bohstedt take down the shooter in a “flying tackle.”