“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
1996 - When Charles Carl Roberts IV hung up on the police dispatcher, the police negotiator outside the Amish schoolhouse frantically redialed Roberts’ cell phone number but could not get through. Roberts, likely feeling that the police were coming at any moment, readied himself to begin shooting the girls.
That was when it happened — a miracle. Not the kind that changed one thing in that schoolhouse, but one that affected the millions of us outside the school house. 13-year-old Marian Fisher raised her voice. “Shoot me first and leave the other ones loose,” she reportedly said.
Her 11-year-old sister, Barbie, then said, “"Shoot me next.”
“Shoot me first.” Imagine saying those words. Now listen to them again in your mind. Then imagine them being said by a child.
Marian Fisher and her sister Barbie must have known the police were coming from Roberts’ frantic phone calls and they may have believed that if they offered themselves perhaps he wouldn’t have had time to kill the others. This was a moment that we should all measure ourselves against.
Roberts looked strangely at the girls and he asked them to pray for him just before he opened fire.
2012 - Victoria Soto, 27, a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., moved her students into a closet, and placed her body between them and shooter Adam Lanza.
She was found huddled over her students, protecting them.
2007 - A 76-year-old aeronautics professor, a Holocaust survivor who had escaped Nazis, had been hunted by communists in Romania, and who finally moved to America to work as a professor at Virgina Tech, was shot as he shielded the classroom door while his students safely escaped a crazed gunman.
Everyone who knew him described Liviu Librescu as kind, generous, and committed to his students. And when the shots rang out on the campus of Virginia Tech, he blocked the door with his body and ordered the students to flee out the window.
One grateful student said she remembered looking back just before leaping from the window and seeing the old man at the door. She said, "I don't think I would be here if it wasn't for him."
1999 - When the gunmen started firing outside Columbine High School, teacher and coach Dave Sander ran through the cafeteria trying to get children to safety. He, along with two janitors, helped get more than 100 students out of the path of danger by herding them away from the shooters.
So successful was Sanders that by the time Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold arrived, the cafeteria was nearly empty. And Sanders had by then run upstairs and was hiding students in classrooms when he was shot in the back.
His last words were reportedly, "Tell my family I love them."
We must mourn what happened in Connecticut just a few days ago and what has happened all too often in recent years. We should all be horrified. We should, I believe, be worried that something is wrong, very wrong, in our country today where mass shootings of children have so quickly become the new normal. But please please also acknowledge the light. To ignore it, is to give one final victory to darkness. Please thank God for such heroes as these and many more. And pray for a day where such heroism is no longer necessary.