A.J. Walker and the Trolley Square Shootings

Webmaster’s Note:  A few years ago, I spent a couple of weeks in Uganda with A.J. Walker and one of his post-shooting mentors, Tim Peters.  A.J. was a huge hit with the Ugandan children.  They loved him and he loved them.

A.J. Walker in Uganda (photograph by Jeremiah Stettler)

A.J. Walker in Uganda (Photograph by Jeremiah Stettler)

By Robert Kirby, Columnist [1]

Ten years ago today, a lone gunman murdered five people and seriously wounded four others at Trolley Square.

On that appalling evening, AJ Walker’s father, 52-year-old Jeffrey Phillip Walker, was killed. AJ was shot in the head and critically wounded. Stacy Hanson was shot three times with a 12-gauge shotgun. He survived.

A few days later, Stacy’s wife ignored requests from the real media and chose a fool of a columnist to tell his story. Honestly, I didn’t want to. The last thing I needed was more terrible images in my head.

I did it because Colleen said I made her husband laugh and she desperately needed to see Stacy at least smile again.

In a similar fashion, I met teenage A.J. and his recently widowed mother, Vickie. A.J. still had pellets in his head, and Vickie still mourned for Alan.

I expected bitterness. I didn’t get it.

The Walkers’ behavior confused me at first. Instead of wallowing in their loss the way I might have, they kept turning the conversation to the more positive elements of their shattered new life.

A.J. was still determined to be a normal teenager and eventually serve an LDS mission. Vickie already had plans to organize programs to help the victims of violence.

I stay in touch with the Hansons and the Walkers. I need to. The courage they brought to bear against the worst moment in their lives is an inspiration to anyone who knows them.

That’s not to say that every day isn’t a fight. Some things that happen to us are so terrible they never stop happening. Our nightmares are proof of that.

There’s no explanation that makes sense of what happened in Trolley Square that night. It’s the days, months and years since then that matter now, the willingness to fight what happened and to move forward.

In that sense, Stacy and A.J. have helped me more than they know. When my own nightmares occasionally tear me from sleep, it’s thoughts of their courage today that bring back enough hope for my own life that I can eventually go back to sleep.

___________________________________

[1] sltrib.com, 11 Feb 2017

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