Smith: Let's roll; let's go

Smith: Let's roll; let's go

November 13th, 2017 by Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

Visitors place flowers at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Nov. 5 First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Photo by David J. Phillip

Robin Smith

Robin Smith

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

Two horrific acts of evil, one recent and one 16 years ago, produced a staggering loss of innocent life — and a subsequent struggle to understand how people become vessels of evil, how they rationalize unspeakable acts of violence. Yet these two tragedies also are poignant examples of that which rises up during moments of great peril to remind us there are good people in this world.

The most recent shock to our nation's collective spirit came on a Sunday morning in a Texas town of about 600 people. Its perpetrator was a gun-wielding man whose deeply troubled mental and criminal past put him in a small church as evil incarnate. Wearing a ballistic vest (and other tactical gear) and armed with an AR-15 (with other weapons in his truck), the man shot and killed 26 innocent people. This man, whose social media posts identify him as an atheist who had regularly spoken of his personal disdain for Christians, was neither a Trump supporter nor an NRA member. The shooter was a dishonorably discharged veteran who spent time in a behavioral health facility for threatening his superiors in the U.S. Air Force and who later was locked up in a military jail for violence against his wife and stepson.

Outside the bullet-riddled church, a father, who had been alerted by his daughter of the gunfire next door, ran barefooted with his own AR-15 and took shelter behind a truck. He saw the killer, who was reportedly returning to his truck for more ammunition. Stephen Willeford, a former National Rifle Association instructor, motorcycle enthusiast and Sutherland Springs resident, shot the shooter in the side.

Injured, the shooter jumped into his truck. He was shot at least a second time as he fled. But for Willeford, the danger remained. He ran to Johnnie Langendorff, who was in his pickup truck nearby. He explained that the small church had been shot up. Langendorff, 27, declared, "Let's go," and gave chase. The shooter struck a tree and flipped over. According to reports, he then shot himself.

"Let's go." Sounds a bit like "Let's roll," the exhortation from Todd Beamer, who on the fateful morning of Sept. 11, 2001, signaled to other passengers aboard hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 to charge the cockpit controlled by al-Qaida terrorists. Three other planes were hijacked that morning. The coordinated attack left about 3,000 people dead in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa. The "average Joes" aboard Flight 93 ran toward danger and their own deaths to thwart the terrorists' ultimate target, likely the U.S. Capitol or White House.

The Sept. 11 terrorists, vessels of evil, turned commercial aircraft into deadly weapons of murder and destruction. The Texas shooter, whose evil actions decimated a small town, was armed with a weapon similar to the one used by the hero who pursued him to his death.

Despite the headlines, there is tremendous good in the hearts of most men and women. The very items that are safely and routinely used by most individuals are tools of destruction in the hands of those who permit the occupancy of evil in their hearts and minds.

Let's be the vessels of good, not evil.

Robin Smith, a former chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, owns Rivers Edge Alliance.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com


Loading...