The lesson my kids learned today in D.C. — “As Americans, we don’t shoot one another over our political differences.”
Today we were scheduled to tour the White House with Martha Brooks, the wife of our congressman, Mo Brooks. She arrived and apologized for being a few minutes late. She had just learned about the news we’ve now been following all day: a gunman opened fire at a baseball field in Alexandria, VA early this morning, injuring House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, several congressional staffers, and two Capitol police officers. Mo was among the group of GOP congressmen the shooter allegedly targeted. Thankfully, Mo was unharmed and he was even able to give aid to the injured.
A half hour after all of this went down, Martha met us at the Visitor’s Gate at the White House.
We told her that we’d be fine, that we totally understood if she felt she needed to be elsewhere. Instead, she graciously stayed by our side for the duration of our tour, offering insight and remaining especially attentive to our children’s questions while her phone blew up with texts and calls. Honestly, I don’t know how she was able to do it. Her composure was something wondrous to behold.
One of the Secret Service agents stationed in the East Room recognized Martha and came up to console her. She thanked him for his concern, saying with a smile, “Other than the fact that someone tried to shoot my husband this morning, I’m fine!”
At the conclusion of our tour, we snapped this picture with Mrs. Brooks. Yesterday, she hosted us on an amazing tour of the Capitol. Mo took the kids with him on the House floor and they even had the chance to cast a few votes and rub elbows with some other congressmen. By this morning, Mo Brooks was a trending topic on Twitter, his quick thinking and heroic action one of the bright spots in an ugly news story that says much about our current political climate.
You hear about these kinds of things from time to time, but it was surreal to be so close to the situation, to see the “real” people being impacted by the events that make headlines. It was also difficult to see our children confronting the reality of evil in such a visceral way. It didn’t make sense to them. “Why would someone want to shoot our elected officials?” Not exactly the kinds of conversations we were anticipating when we planned this family vacation to the nation’s capital. Try explaining this kind of garbage to a nine-year-old.
But in the end, as the better angels of our nature prevail, we remember that our fellow citizens — even the ones with whom we most strongly disagree — are just that: fellow citizens. They are fellow sons and daughters, sisters and brothers. Today I’m grateful for people like Mo and Martha Brooks, individuals who not only represent me as a North Alabamian, but more importantly, as an American. Mo, your dedication to your country and your fellow citizens is evident. Thank you for your service. And, Martha, my children will not soon forget your strength and dignity in adversity. Nor will I. People like you renew my hope in the national ideals we hold so dear.
Praying for you all and for all those injured in today’s shooting.