Love Your Neighbor as Yourself in a Mass Shooting

While it is horrible that the victims in the San Bernardino shooting were unarmed and vulnerable, so that fifteen were killed by merely two shooters, it is important to remember courage and self-sacrifice in the face of death.

Yesterday, this showed up in my Facebook feed:

shannon johnson

While Facebook memes are not something I would consider reliable, this one could be easily verified. For example, the New York Post reports, “San Bernardino survivor calls victim Shannon Johnson ‘her hero’

When a hail of bullets ripped through the air, through their conversation, through their lives — Shannon Johnson didn’t hesitate.

“I’ve got you,” the 45-year-old San Bernardino man calmly told the young co-worker he’d just been chatting with, wrapping his arm around her as they hid behind a chair trying to escape the erupting fusillade.

Just five minutes earlier, Johnson, a health inspector for the county, and 27-year-old Denise Peraza were quipping about the clock, she recalls.

“We were seated next to each other at a table, joking about how we thought the large clock on the wall might be broken because time seemed to be moving so slowly,” she says in a statement released by her family.

“I would have never guessed that…we would be huddled next to each other under that same table, using a fallen chair as a shield from over 60 rounds of bullets being fired across the room.”

A bullet pierced Peraza’s lower back as she huddled with Johnson, who the Los Angeles Times says once worked as a trucker before joining the San Bernardino Public Health Department a decade ago.

It is very easy, when surprised by life-threatening danger, to act selfishly. It is almost super-human to immediately and spontaneously care about someone else, not only giving the person what protection you can offer (even if that is only your own body) but also giving the assurance.

“I’ve got you.”

[See also, “Umpqua Gave Us a Real Life Action Hero.]

Johnson’s hometown newspaper also ran a story about him: “Macon Windsor Academy graduate died heroic death in San Bernardino attack.”

That the former high school football star died protecting her was no surprise to those who loved him.

“He would put himself in the line of fire to help someone else,” said his brother, Rob Johnson, of Gray.

The mass shooting Wednesday in San Bernardino, California, seemed half a world away until shock waves hit Middle Georgia with an epicenter at Windsor Academy in Macon.

The star athlete from the private school’s Class of 1988 was one of the 14 people killed in the attack.

A relative of one of the survivors shared the story on Facebook.

“This angel of a man was sitting next to my sister when the shooting happened,”Stephanie Rose Baldwin posted Friday morning. “He helped protect her from the bullets and we are so grateful for his heroic love, that most likely saved her life.”

I hope I never am shot at and that I’m never disarmed and helpless. But, if I am, I hope I can die like Shannon Johnson.