It’s easy to feel insulated from national headlines in our small, wholesome community. We shake our heads at national news of shootings and violent attacks across America, and while we grieve for those involved, we breathe a sigh of relief. Thank goodness nothing like that will ever happen here … or so we think.
Sadly, the horrific becomes mundane when we see what used to be shocking headlines now splashed across the TV every few weeks. When it hits closer to home, we pay attention.
Last Friday morning that violence touched my family and hundreds of others with a loved one who works at Clayton Homes, a manufactured home builder, in Waycross. One family, the victims of this senseless tragedy, are grieving the loss of loved ones.
I received a text from an unknown number just before 10 a.m. “This is Jeremy. There’s an active shooter in the plant, but I’m OK.”
At first I thought it was a scam. A few seconds later I realized it wasn’t. In a rush to evacuate the building Jeremy left his phone in the office.
I told him I loved him and kept working, waiting to hear more. Reports soon began popping up on social media and then ActionNewsJax picked it up, posting an online story hardly an hour after the domestic related shooting claimed the lives of two people.
Jeremy was home by lunch. That hug was a tight one. We took an extra long lunch break to decompress and thank the Lord for His protection. Then it was back to the regular Friday grind, but not really. Those narrow misses in life give you a new appreciation for even the little things — the sun shines a little brighter, the promise of the weekend ahead together seemed more exciting.
From all accounts, it appears Clayton employees exhibited inordinate calm under pressure, their focus primarily on clearing the facility and getting folks out of harm’s way as quickly as possible.
I joked with a longtime friend who works in sales at Clayton on Sunday. He’d been showing a house on the yard to a potential buyer when the shooting occurred and tasked with keeping customers calm and safe.
“Did you make that sale?” I quipped.
Surprisingly, he may have. The customers later expressed how impressed they were with his care for them in the middle of an unexpected crisis.
Yes, the chaos and unrest of this crazy world hit a little too close to home last week. I’m thankful those who needed to be were prepared. The situation was handled quickly and with much caution by Clayton employees and area law enforcement, but I’ll give credit to the Good Lord above too for his graciousness to us.
• Sarah Tarr Gove is news editor of The Blackshear Times. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.