A Dad Named Charlie

Hank Mattimore
June 6, 2013
Reproduced with Permission

You may have caught the news story. A crazed man in Alabama boarded a school bus and demanded that the bus driver, fella named Charlie, hand over two of the school kids. The man had a gun and pointed it menacingly at the bus driver.

Charlie stepped between the deranged man and the kids. "You're not taking any of these children. They're my responsibility," he said. The gunman shot Charlie, put four bullets into him, and then fled with little Ethan, a five-year old special needs little boy. (Later, that week the killer was found and killed by the police and Ethan was rescued)

I can't get Charlie out of my mind these days. His photo was in the papers, white whiskered, grandpa type, wearing suspenders, maybe in his sixties. He is smiling in the picture. One of his sons said afterwards "That's my dad. It was his goal, his purpose to make sure every child was delivered to his mom and dad every day. For my dad, every one of those kids were "his kids."

I try to put myself in Charlie's place as he faced a totally unexpected crisis. How could anyone prepare for a mentally ill man to jump aboard a school bus and with a gun pointed right at the bus driver's chest, order him to turn over two of the kids to him. So the account goes. "Charlie faced down death, putting himself between the gunman and the children."

I am in awe of this man. He is the average man's version of Nelson Mandela or Gandhi or Jesus Christ. In that moment of truth, he did not back away; he stepped forward. He made his choice. He would rather die than be less than a man for any of those little children.

This was a man at the peak of his manhood, strong, courageous, and protective.

What is the saying? "No man stands taller than when he stoops to help a child." Oh yea! Double yea! As we dads and grandpas gather to celebrate Fathers Day, may we all salute the ordinary guy who became in one shining moment, a hero and model for our manhood, a man named Charlie.