On March 1st, 2008 at around three a.m., my life changed forever.
My sixteen-year-old daughter’s boyfriend and his accomplice came in and shot my wife Penny and me as we slept, killing her and leaving me fighting to stay alive. They then went upstairs and killed our sons: thirteen-year-old Matthew and eight-year-old Tyler.
I can still see in my mind the horror that unfolded that frightful night. I can hear Penny’s screams as we were both riddled with bullets. I can hear the shots and sounds of that night as we both fought for our lives. One of the last things I remember hearing before I lost consciousness was Matthew screaming and crying out “No! No!” just as more shots rang out. I tried to push myself up off the floor as the gunfire was ringing out, but I collapsed and passed out.
As I came to, I thought that maybe I had been dreaming. But I realized very quickly that this was no dream. It was a real nightmare. I felt hot and the smell of smoke filled the room. When I understood that the house was on fire, I pushed myself up with a strength that only God could have provided. I got up on the side of the bed, but couldn’t feel the right side of my body. I also left a pool of blood behind me.
I began to panic. I knew that I needed to check on my family, but the fire was too intense. There was no way for me to
get upstairs to the boys. The flames were just too great. I climbed over the bed and found that Penny was already gone.
The only way I could find out of the house was through our bathroom window. The hardest thing I did that cool winter night was to climb out of that window and leave my family inside an inferno, knowing that I would never see them again this side of heaven.
As I fell to the ground outside the window, I looked around, not knowing if the gunmen were still around the house. I quickly crawled into the woods at the back of our house. I looked back toward the house and saw it engulfed with flames. I knew it was too late to save any of my family.
I had to get to our neighbors’, Tommy and Helen. Not only were they our neighbors, but they were like our parents. I crawled on my hands and knees, not knowing if I would make it the 400 yards to their house. I knew I had been shot, but I had no idea how badly I was wounded. Later, the doctors would discover that I’d been shot in the head and upper body at least a dozen times.
I pressed on step by step. At times, I’d walk a few steps and then collapse, each step and crawl becoming more difficult. Finally I made it to the half-way point between our house and Tommy’s. I collapsed again and asked God to take my life. I had lost everything and I didn’t want to live anymore. But God had other plans for me.
As I lay on the ground, I looked back toward my burning house, thinking that it would be the last image I would see as I left this world. Suddenly, something came over me. I know now that it was God telling me to get up and move forward. I forced myself up to my feet and glanced back one last time towards my house, which was now totally engulfed in flames.
Then I looked forward, to a place I knew I could find help. I saw a dim light flickering in Tommy and Helen’s front window. I was at a crossroads, a point of decision. Flames behind me, a glimmering light before me. I could either return to the flames and die with my family or continue on toward the light, dim though it was.
I turned toward the light and didn’t look back any more. That night, deep in the woods, frightened, not knowing what lay ahead in the darkness, I found hope. I saw the light at Tommy and Helen’s and walked toward it. And God brought me out of that darkness to a place of salvation and healing.
I believe that whatever darkness you find yourself in today, there is hope. And that hope is Jesus, the light of the world.
1 Peter 2:9 — But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; That ye should shew forth the praises of him who have called ye out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Psalms 56:13 — For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt thou not deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?