All God’s angels come to us disguised ~James Russell Lowell
On November 23, 2012, Jordan Davis, a 17 year old teen, was shot and killed in the parking lot of a Jacksonville gas station. When these types of tragedies happens, the first question is why? Why do people hate, why do people kill, why do we keep repeating our mistakes? And how can we go on loving and trusting and being vulnerable in a world where this happens all too often? In these moments of doubt, there are angels who show us why we continue to believe in the power of light over darkness. Andrew Williams. Shawn Atkins and Lauren Alderman. Lucia McBath. We must know these names, and speak these names and tell their stories, because these are the angels who remind us of the light in the darkness of Jordan Davis’ death.
Andrew Williams was driving down the street with his wife, Melissa Williams, and some teenagers from his church on the night of Nov 23rd. He and his wife were chaperoning the teens’ first date and taking them to the movies. They heard a noise that Mr Williams recognized as gunfire. Rather than speed off in the opposite direction, Mr Williams turned the car around when he heard the shots because “something inside told me to go”. He pulled into the gas station and saw that a young man in a car had been shot. He approached the young man, checked for a pulse and proceeded to give basic CPR until an officer came to the scene. When an officer arrived at the scene Andrew Williams got gloves from the officer, took the teen from the car and continued to try to revive the dying teen until paramedic arrived and took over.
Andrew Williams could have ignored the sound of gunfire. He could have left it to someone else to administer CPR. When others may have driven away from the shots and turned away from a bleeding, dying teenager, Andrew Williams drove in, put his hands on Jordan Davis and tried to help.
Shawn Atkins and Lauren Alderman:
This young couple was homeless and living on the streets of Jacksonville in a brown 88 Dodge Dakota on the night that Jordan Davis died. Shawn Atkins did not have a job, and Lauren had just recently gotten one. On November 23, 2012 they went to the gas station for Lauren to use the bathroom While she was in the bathroom, Shawn Atkins heard two gunshots. He saw a man shooting at a car that was pulling out of the parking lot, and then saw that man and his girlfriend get in their car and drive away. Shawn Atkins had the presence to register the license plate number of the car as it drove away and then gave the license plate number to the teller at the gas station. During this entire time his girlfriend, Lauren Alderman, was in the gas station and did not see any of these events. When she came out of the gas station, they got in the car and Shawn Atkins drove away. He left because he was afraid, but also because he was in violation of his probation and “did not want to deal” with the police, and he knew they would be on their way. Within minutes, though, he turned around and returned to the scene. Why? Because when he told Lauren Alderman what had happened she slapped him and made him go back to the gas station.
Shawn Atkins could have stayed in his car. He could have left it to others, who were not in violation of their probation and who did not have anything to lose, to get that license plate number. Lauren Alderman could have allowed Shawn to leave the scene and to avoid the risk of dealing with the police. When others may have let self preservation rule and chosen to leave the scene, Shawn Atkins and Lauren Alderman returned to bear witness to Jordan Davis’ death.
“It is by suffering that human beings become angels” ~Victor Hugo
I do not know whether Lucia McBath was an angel before the death of her son, but her suffering has certainly given her that distinction. Her grace and love in the face of everything that has happened serves as a beacon for those who suffer similar pain. Since her son’s death, Ms. McBath has fought for a change in the “Stand Your Ground” law, which she feels contributed to the death of her son. She testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the issue, in the hope that what happened to her son will not happen to any other young teens. On July 24, 2013, the Grio at MSNBC interviewed Ms. McBath and she said that she has forgiven her son’s killer and that she prays for him, literally every day. Ms. McBath is Jordan Davis strongest, brightest and most graceful angel, and she reminds us of the power of love and forgiveness in the face of hate and pain.
In that interview with MSNBC’s The Grio Ms. McBath also said “I believe that God’s hand is truly controlling everything that has happened” Without question, God’s hand is present even in the tragedy of Jordan Davis’ death. There are always angels to be found, in all of their messy disguises.