Indya Kincannon, a 2019 candidate for Mayor, recalls the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church shooting.
Eleven years ago, our Sunday (July 29, 2008) started out pretty normal. My husband, Ben had to catch an early flight to go to a work conference. The girls and I dropped him off at the airport, had breakfast at Shoney’s, then went to Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. There was a special performance at church that day that Dahlia and Georgia didn’t want to miss. We settled into our pew, but the girls were just 5 and 7 years old, and couldn’t see well enough, so we moved up to the front row. This seemingly inconsequential decision may have saved our lives.
About 10 minutes after the performance began, we heard a loud bang. Was it a special effect? Too loud. Had a transformer blown? Why were people screaming? It didn’t make sense. There were several more bangs. I realized a gunman had entered our sanctuary and started shooting people.
I pushed Dahlia and Georgia to the ground and threw myself on top of them. Time slowed way down. The shots stopped, and I looked over to see several men tackling the gunman. I picked up both girls and rushed towards an exit, leaving my purse, Georgia’s shoes, injured and dying people, and palpable fear behind. I carried Georgia and our kind friend, Bob, carried Dahlia. A nearby neighbor, a stranger, let us borrow his phone. We called a friend who picked us up in Tyson Park.
Two beloved people lost their lives that day, many more were injured and traumatized. I shielded my girls from the media, but they eventually realized what happened and had a lot of questions. There were no easy answers.
The TVUUC shooting was traumatic, but the community’s response left a deep and lasting impression on me. From the people of 2nd Presybterian Church, to the speedy first responders, it felt like the entire city embraced us with love and enduring support.
We don’t have to wait for tragedies to unite. Whether we are working to address the opioid epidemic, gun violence, affordable housing, economic opportunity, or more mundane issues like traffic and blight, we work better when we work together, collaboratively, civilly and with mutual respect. That is how I will lead as your Mayor.