Forget The Gunman. Remember The Hero.
The one to remember is 30-year-old Chris Mintz, the student and Army vet who was shot at least five times while charging straight at the gunman in an effort to save others.
Mintz did so on the sixth birthday of his son, Tyrik.
“It’s my son’s birthday, it’s my son’s birthday,” he was heard saying as he lay wounded.
When word of Mintz’s heroism reached his kin in his native North Carolina, his cousin Derek Bourgeois was hardly surprised.
“It sounds like something he would do,” Bourgeois said.
Bourgeois was somewhat amazed that a guy who survived a combat deployment without serious injury had come so close to being killed in a small Oregon town not unlike the one in North Carolina where they grew up together.
Bourgeois said he and Mintz had both joined the Army after graduating from high school. Bourgeois had been stationed in Fort Bragg, but Mintz had been sent to Fort Lewis in Washington state. They had both been deployed.
After leaving the Army, Mintz had moved to Oregon and done a bit of mixed martial arts. He had been working at the local YMCA while he enrolled at the community college with an eye toward becoming a fitness trainer.
“He’s a big guy,” the cousin noted.
Mintz did not forget his former comrades in the Army. He marked the seventh anniversary of the death of Army Capt. Richard Gordon Jr. in Afghanistan by posting a photo and a bio of the fallen officer on Facebook.
“‘To the limit.’ Sir, you are not forgotten,” Mintz wrote in the September 28 post.
On Thursday, Mintz began the day with a post that marked the happiest of anniversaries.
“Happy birthday, Tyrik,” he wrote.
Mintz then headed to UCC and his first week of classes. He did just what his cousin would have expected him to do when the gunman began firing.
The other students present in those horrific moments included a woman who is a nurse. She began administering CPR in a desperate attempt to save one of the mortally wounded. She then held Mintz’s hand and prayed with him while he said again and again that it was his son’s birthday.
Ambulances marked “Douglas County Fire District No. 2” responded to the scene. The area’s biggest concern in recent days had been what just a spark can start in wildfire season. Roseburg had now been struck by a danger that can strike any part of America in any season.
For the 40th time this year, the 141st time since the Sandy Hook massacre, a gunman had opened fire in a school. A number of the firefighters had studied to become paramedics at the college. They now set to using what they had learned.
At the hospital, Mintz underwent at least one surgery. His cousin reports that he is expected to recover.
“From what I’m hearing, he’s fine,” the cousin said. “But he’s going to have to learn to walk again.”
Of course, there were other instances of great courage at UCC, just as there were at Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary School and the Aurora movie theater and the Charleston church and seemingly all the other mass shootings.
Yet it is the killers whose names become part of our history.
And it is hard not to think that the desire to become more than a lonely loser motivates the gunman.
The latest killer wrote in a blog about the failed TV reporter turned killer who contrived to murder two former co-workers in the midst of a live shot.
“On an interesting note, I have noticed that so many people like him are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are,” the UCC killer-to-be wrote on August 31.
He went on: “A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.”
A month and a day later, the killer made his own murderous play to become known. He packed four guns and sought all the limelight he could, killing nine innocents before he himself was killed during an exchange with two courageous police officers.
In the evening, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin held a press conference. Hanlin said he would leave it to the coroner’s office to identify the killer.
“I will not give him the credit he probably sought,” Hanlin said of the killer. “You will never hear me use his name.”
The coroner will be obliged to issue an official identification, and news organizations will be obliged to report it.
But if you hear it, forget that Chris in that very instant.
Think of Chris Mintz, who was shot while rushing a killer on his son’s sixth birthday.
Forget the zero and remember the hero.
Also remember those two brave cops and the others who showed uncommon courage.
And honor the memory of the murdered innocents, who leave us with an obligation to do something to stop this madness.
As no amount of murder seems likely to result in real gun control any time soon, we can begin by reserving the limelight only for those who save lives and for those whose lives are taken.
Forget the zeroes and remember the heroes.
— with reporting from Kate Briquelet