Betrayal. It is a word that almost immediately invokes a negative
response in people. To have been betrayed is to have experienced an
action or event that was previously deemed impossible. We often times
hear of betrayal in the context of marriages or in the syntax of
politicians, but sometimes it is the inanimate and the unseen that does
Chaos. Like betrayal, chaos is oftentimes met
with the sickening feelings of confusion and fear. Chaos can be
unpredictable. Chaos can be confusing. Chaos is almost always
In our world of mixed messages and media overload,
where dissertation has given way to 140-character annotation, there
still remain some old-school principles in our day to day lives. In a
‘me-centric’ society, it’s uplifting to hear about a stranger sticking
up for the little guy. That is, of course, unless betrayal and chaos
have anything to do with it.
On September 26, David James was
enjoying a Sunday evening with his daughter, playing basketball in the
park of his Valrico (Tampa) subdivision. Also enjoying the park were
some skateboarders, much to the chagrin of neighbor who attempted to
chase them off the courts. 41 year-old James, just recently retired
from twenty years of service in the Air Force, came to their defense.
It was the right thing to do; stand up for the little guy who is being
attacked. It was the common sense thing to do.
That Sunday evening, David James was betrayed by his common sense.
neighbor in question, adamant in his desire to rid the court of the
skateboarders, pulled a gun. The details of exactly what ensued are not
known except for the cold and terrifying fact that James was shot and
killed as a result. Even more horrifying is the fact this was all
witnessed by his eight year-old daughter, who proceeded to retrieve her
father’s cell phone from his pocket in order to call her mother, all the
while enveloped in the arms of chaos.
I never met David James. I
did not know him but I know people who did. It’s for that reason, in
part, I felt compelled to write about him and the tragic circumstances
that ended his life.
I believe there is a special place in
Heaven for individuals who lose their lives for the sake of others.
David James was coming to the defense of kids who appear to have been
minding their own business and simply looking to have some fun with
their skate boards. Still, I can’t help think, with my retrospective,
20/20 glasses, what would have happened had James simply minded his own
business and kept to himself.
You can’t predict and you can’t
control crazy. The events that unfolded that Sunday evening were
chaotic and not any kind of normal. James had no way of knowing or
foreseeing that his acting on instinct would ultimately cost him is
life. Like he did for 20 years in uniform, David James exemplified
courage and honor in stepping in to defend the skateboarders, for anyone
can look away and ignore a situation of conflict, but it takes real
bravery to intervene on someone else’s behalf.
For the rest of
us, we play the result and say James acted inappropriately. We look at
what happened and think he made a mistake with his actions. However,
right is right and just is just. The betrayal by common sense and the
chaos that followed does not make the intentions David James carried any
I hope this is something his daughter will never
lose sight of as she begins the rest of her life with one less hero to
guide her. My heart goes out to her. I hope she also remembers that
in the whirlwind of chaos, there is one force that exists to offset the
terror and allow peace to settle the situation. That force is prayer,
and I ask you all join me in saying a prayer for her and her widowed
mother in this time of intense grief and confusion. Ironically, I
stumbled across an anonymous quote I feel is appropriate for her as she
attempts to make sense of everything that transpired.
"God can heal a broken heart, but He has to have all the pieces." – Unknown
Rest in Peace, David James. You were loved and admired, and you will most certainly be missed.For more information about this incident, please see tampabay.com (Piece 1 and Piece 2)