March 29, 2023
There were signs of spring everywhere — in the bright morning sun, the pink flowers lining trees beside the parking lot, the signs for Easter services. As a small gray car rounded the bend, security cameras caught little children pumping their legs on swing sets in the background — the last carefree moment any of them will remember about this day. As they have in too many cities, Nashville’s moms and dads went about their days, not realizing they’d said goodbye for the last time.
For the seven families whose lives changed forever Monday morning, there is no making sense of the heartbreak. But for one set of parents, it’s a unique kind of pain — knowing their daughter is the one responsible. Norma Hale, whose Facebook page is full of proud mom moments, woke up Tuesday with the knowledge that her 28-year-old child’s last words to a friend were “I don’t want to live.” Moments later, Audrey Hale shot through the double glass doors she’d walked through hundreds of times as a Covenant school student, ready to kill.
Miles away, a stunned Averianna Patton sat holding her phone, rereading the text that something bad was about to happen. “Audrey!” she had frantically written back. “You have so much more life to live. I pray God keeps and covers you.”
But it was too late. Hale was walking the hallways of her old Christian school, gunning down anyone in her path. A beloved custodian. The revered head of the school. A favorite substitute teacher. The senior pastor’s only daughter. A nine-year-old boy and girl. In a split second, the buzz of classrooms gave way to sirens and school alarms.
Outside, officers grabbed rifles — listening to reports that some kids were unaccounted for. “Let’s go!” Officers Rex Engelbert is heard yelling to his men, who all take off running toward the gunfire. Unlike Uvalde, where police were paralyzed by indecision, Nashville’s team charged into the school and up the stairs, seeing Hale spraying bullets on the police cars below. Twenty-five seconds later, Officers Engelbert and Michael Callazo fired the shots that took her down — an act of pure and selfless heroism.
No one knows how many others might have died without these men sprinting into the face of evil. “The first call to 911 about shots being fired in the building came in at 10:13 a.m.,” Nashville Police Chief John Drake said. They saved lives. “Let us praise our first responders,” Mayor John Cooper urged. “Fourteen minutes,” Cooper said, referring to the time it took police to get to the scene and stop the shooter. “Fourteen minutes, under fire, running to gunfire.”
In the chaos that followed, children raced down the sidewalks in their school uniforms, holding hands with teachers. From every direction, panicked adults started to arrive, wondering if their child was one of the dead.
Inside, police tried to get a grasp on the casualties. Hale had “a significant amount” of ammunition, they discovered. And a manifesto. “There’s some belief that there was some resentment for having to go to that school,” Drake explained, as outlets started to pick up on the explosive news that Audrey identified as Aiden.
Immediately, the Left turned loose its attack dogs, savaging Drake and the media for “misgendering” the shooter that everyone had rightly described as a woman. Within hours, both USA Today and The New York Times apologized for calling Audrey a “female,” ultimately editing stories and headlines to appease the unappeasable mob who have fostered hostility for those who refuse to yield to their dangerous and destructive charade.
Hours later, the blame game began in earnest. None of this would have happened, activists said, if society were more accepting of the trans ideology, if Audrey’s parents had just been more open to her male identity, if states had just stopped banning drag shows and kids’ gender transitions.
One NBC reporter even went so far as to lay responsibility at the feet of conservatives for fighting to protect children from the transgender ideology that so obviously haunted Hale. “The GOP have decided that guns are more important than kids,” actor Josh Gad argued. “They have decided it is okay to let kids die.” If she was a victim of anything, others claimed, it was “intolerant … brainwashing” and “religious indoctrination.” Then came the ridicule. “Is it possible they weren’t praying enough?” talk show host David Pakman mocked the school. “If prayers alone worked there wouldn’t have been a mass shooting at a school where they pray…” one gun control activist scoffed.
Make no mistake. A storm is brewing in this country that screams, “Christianity is the problem!” The calls will come — if they haven’t already — for the faithful to step back from cultural engagement, to acquiesce on biblical truth where the battle is raging the fiercest: for our children. It’s the same argument the Left has been using on the parents of confused kids — give in or they’ll hurt themselves. To the church it will be: back off or they’ll hurt others.
The inclination will be to move away from biblical truth, the very source of hope and freedom that confused and troubled souls like Audrey need. But that’s not the way forward in a nation broken and bleeding. As much as the other side would like to manage the chaos by indulging these delusions and passing meaningless legislation, the problem isn’t the state of our laws; it’s the condition of the heart.
These tragedies, whether they’re in Nashville or Newtown, are the bitter fruit of a deception that’s destroying us. It’s time to address these lies with urgency, acknowledging that we are a broken people in need of the God that we keep pushing away. It is our moment to do what the brave officers in Nashville did: confront and engage the crisis. These aren’t men who sat on the sidelines, letting the shooter take aim at more children. They rushed straight into the face of danger and protected the weak. As Christians, we’re called to do the same: confront evil and protect the vulnerable so they may know Jesus.
That’s not easy in a society as hostile to truth as ours. But we do not honor the memories of Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, Williams Kinney, Mike Hill, Cynthia Peak, and Katherine Koonce by abandoning the faith they died living. A spiritual battle is raging for this generation, and we will not win it with silence. We’ve been called, as Ezekiel was called, to speak the word of God in dark days — no matter the cost. “Be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words … [Y]ou shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house” (2:6a,7).
For now, we are a nation swimming in grief. But consider the timing of this tragedy, so near Easter. In this season of empty tombs, we cling to the only hope capable of holding the hurting together. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet he shall live” (John 11:25). To those families suffering under the weight of unspeakable loss, we rejoice with them that Jesus’s death was not the end of His story — and it will not be the end of theirs either.