Last Sunday, members of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and the Westside Unitarian Universalist Fellowship were gathered together in the their church's sanctuary watching a group of children give a performance in front of the congregation. Suddenly, a man named Jim Adkisson storms in with a rifle in a guitar case and begins to start shooting into the crowd. Greg McKendry, a 60 year-old foster parent and church usher, reacted immediately by taking a bullet to the chest in order to shield the people that Adkisson was aiming at. His sacrifice gave congregation members more time to get out of the line of fire and escape next door. Adkisson fired over a handful more shots before three men were able to jump on top of him while he re-loaded.
About McKendry, one article wrote:
"He found out my daughter, Miriam, was about to go away to college," Griffin said. "Without anybody asking, he showed up with boxes. In my car today are the boxes Greg brought so Miriam could pack up to go to college."
"He's the kind of guy who wouldn't hesitate at all to try to do something to help, no matter what happened," said Bill Dockery, who served on committees with McKendry at the church. "If he saw a problem, he was going to confront it."
Greg McKendry was an amazing man and so was the other victim, Linda Kraeger. Kraeger, a retired professor and author of several books, was active in her family and church community for many years and was at the church that morning to see the children's performance. According to Kraeger's neice,
Sarah over at Orcinus has a beautiful tribute to the Unitarian Universalist church that tells of its rich history of welcoming people of all kinds. You simply must read it:
Of Madmen and Martyrs
Those who would like to show support for the affected church and its members can check out this website that has been set up where you can leave messages and get updates about what you can do to help:
Supporting Our Friends in Knoxville
My mother-in-law's New Year's resolution was to visit the local Unitarian Universalist church in her city. The German and I had looked into it and meant to check it out but never got around to it. I think that this would be an excellent time for us to follow through with that intention and I'd encourage anyone else to do so, too, regardless of their religion or lack thereof. They deserve to know that people of goodwill support them in this difficult time.