When doing the right thing turns fatal
In the aftermath of the shooting that left a Valrico father and Air Force veteran dead, many in the Tampa Bay area felt shock, outrage, and confusion over the whole incident. Gil Gonzalez, a Tampa writer and blogger, wrote a personal essay about his reaction and shares it as a guest post for Let's Talk readers:
Betrayal. It is a word that almost immediately invokes a negative response in people. To have been betrayed is to have experienced an action or event that was previously deemed impossible. We often times hear of betrayal in the context of marriages or in the syntax of politicians, but sometimes it is the inanimate and the unseen that does the betraying.
Chaos. Like betrayal, chaos is often met with the sickening feelings of confusion and fear. Chaos can be unpredictable. Chaos can be confusing. Chaos is almost always terrifying.
In our world of mixed messages and media overload, where dissertation has given way to 140-character annotation, there still remain some old-school principles in our day-to-day lives. In a ‘me-centric’ society, it’s uplifting to hear about a stranger sticking up for the little guy. That is, of course, unless betrayal and chaos have anything to do with it.
On Sept. 26, David James was enjoying a Sunday evening with his daughter, playing basketball in the park of his Valrico subdivision. Also enjoying the park were some skateboarders, much to the chagrin of neighbor who attempted to chase them off the courts. James, 41, who had just recently retired from 20 years of service in the Air Force, came to their defense. It was the right thing to do; stand up for the little guy who is being attacked. It was the common sense thing to do.
That Sunday evening, David James was betrayed by his common sense. The neighbor in question, adamant in his desire to rid the court of the skateboarders, pulled a gun. The details of exactly what ensued are not known except for the cold and terrifying fact that James was shot and killed as a result. Even more horrifying is the fact this was all witnessed by his eight-year-old daughter, who proceeded to retrieve her father’s cell phone from his pocket in order to call her mother, all the while enveloped in the arms of chaos.
I never met David James. I did not know him but I know people who did. It is for that reason, in part, I felt compelled to write about him and the tragic circumstances that ended his life.
I believe there is a special place in heaven for individuals who lose their lives for the sake of others. David James was coming to the defense of kids who appear to have been minding their own business and simply looking to have some fun with their skateboards. Still, I can’t help think, with my retrospective, 20/20 glasses, what would have happened had James simply minded his own business and kept to himself.
You can't predict and you can’t control crazy. The events that unfolded that Sunday evening were chaotic and not any kind of normal. James had no way of knowing or foreseeing that his acting on instinct would ultimately cost him is life. Like he did for 20 years in uniform, David James exemplified courage and honor in stepping in to defend the skateboarders. Anyone can look away and ignore a situation of conflict, but it takes real bravery to intervene on someone else’s behalf.
For the rest of us, we play the result and say James acted inappropriately. We look at what happened and think he made a mistake with his actions. However, right is right and just is just. The betrayal by common sense and the chaos that followed does not make the intentions David James carried any less worthy.
I hope this is something his daughter will never lose sight of as she begins the rest of her life with one less hero to guide her. My heart goes out to her. I hope she also remembers that in the whirlwind of chaos, there is one force that exists to offset the terror and allow peace to settle the situation. That force is prayer, and I ask you all to join me in saying a prayer for her and her widowed mother in this time of intense grief and confusion. Ironically, I stumbled across an anonymous quote I feel is appropriate for her as she attempts to make sense of everything that transpired.
"God can heal a broken heart, but He has to have all the pieces." ~ Unknown
Rest in Peace, David James. You were loved and admired, and you will most certainly be missed.
Share your feedback here or on Gil Gonzalez's blog.