Every Wednesday, I try to use my voice to shine the spotlight on people who are doing good in this world, to offset all the bad that we are confronted with on a daily basis. Sometimes I feature a number of people doing small, simple things for friends, neighbors, or their community. Other times I find people or organizations that are making huge differences in the lives of many. I try to mix it up from week to week, but I typically try to keep politics out of the mix. Todays “good people” is a single person, and while there may be some underlying political issues here, my only focus is to shine the light on this one man, a man of great courage, compassion, and humility, Mr. James Shaw Jr.Though you may not remember him by name, you will surely remember him by deed. Mr. Shaw was the man who stopped a mass shooter at a Tennessee Waffle House last month, and most amazingly, he did so without a weapon.
The Story:On the morning of Sunday April 22nd, 3:25 a.m. to be exact, Travis Reinking, 29 years of age drove his pickup truck to a Waffle House restaurant in Antioch, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville. Reinking, clad in naught but a bomber jacket, exited his truck and immediately fired shots at a group of people conversing in the parking lot. He then entered the restaurant and again opened fire with an AR-15 assault rifle.
The shooting momentarily stopped as Reinking re-loaded his gun, and it was then that Mr. Shaw saw an opportunity and took it, first hitting Reinking with the swinging bathroom door in front of which Reinking was standing, then wresting the gun from his hands and tossing it behind the counter, at which point the gunman fled, with a bit of a shove from Shaw. Reinking, who had been arrested and later released by the U.S. Secret Service for being on White House grounds unauthorized in July 2017, was caught and arrested the next afternoon.
The Hero:I often think we use the term ‘hero’ far too loosely these days. Sports figures are referred to as ‘heroes’ for scoring the winning run or touchdown. A man who rescues a cat from a tree is hailed as a hero. (Mind you, if it were my cat, he would be a hero to me, but …) It tends to make the word somewhat ‘watered down’, diluted, somehow not as meaningful. But in my book, Mr. Shaw qualifies as a hero. He, however, sees it differently, which is one of the things I love about this man …
“I did that completely out of a selfish act. I was completely doing it just to save myself. Now, me doing that, I did save other people. But I don’t want people to think that I was the Terminator, or Superman or anybody like that. It was just, I figured if I was going to die, he was going to have to work for it.”
When asked if he had prior military training, Shaw responded, “I haven’t had any specific combat training. I just fight my daughter every night, so I can put her to bed.”
Four people died that day, several others were injured, and Mr. Shaw himself received a graze from a passing bullet and burns to his palm from grabbing the hot rifle by its barrel. We will never know how much worse it might have been, had not Mr. James Shaw been in the right place at the right time, and determined to act. He may not consider himself a hero, but I do.
The Next Day:James Shaw’s heroism doesn’t stop there, though. The next day he created a GoFundMe campaign to help the families of the victims. He set an initial goal to raise $15,000, but that goal was quickly surpassed when the fund reached $20,000 in the first 16 hours! As of this writing, the fund contains $216,993, donated by some 6,056 people!
Last week, New Yorker Yashar Ali started a GoFundMe campaign for Shaw’s 4-year-old daughter, Brooklyn.
“James Shaw Jr. put his life on the line when he took on the gunman who killed four people at a Nashville area Waffle House. Since that horrific shooting, he has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the victims and shown a level of humility that has inspired many of us.
I normally don’t get involved directly in these matters, but James’ grace has inspired me to start this page to give him the support I feel he deserves.
According to news reports, James has a four-year-old daughter. Perhaps this money can be used for her college fund or some other education related expense. But I’d be just as happy if James used some of this money to take his family on a nice vacation.
Funds will be transferred directly to James Shaw Jr. through GoFundMe.”
Mr. Shaw also made a special trip to Vanderbilt Hospital to visit briefly with some of the people who were injured in the shooting. But he is uncomfortable with being called a hero …
“I’d rather you regard me as James, you know, just a regular person, because I feel like everybody can do pretty much what I did.”
Brave. Courageous. Humble. What’s not to like? Today, I hope you will all join me in paying tribute to this man who did what most of us hope we would do, but few actually could. Thank you, Mr. James Shaw.