On Saturday, a gunman opened fire in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 21 innocents in cold blood and injuring dozens more. The horror was only compounded when the vicious attack was followed by a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio early Sunday morning, where nine more were fatally shot.
In the midst of the chaos and predictable political point-scoring by presidential candidates, pundits, and media figures, one man rightly caught the attention of the nation: Glendon Oakley, a soldier stationed at Fort Bliss who ran toward the sounds of gunfire in that El Paso-area Walmart and risked his own life to save countless lives.
“It was one child. He ran in and told us it was an active shooter in Walmart, but I didn’t pay any mind, because for one, he’s just a child, and for two, you’re inside the mall so how would you know it’s an active shooter?” Oakley recalled to KFox14 News. After realizing the attack was underway, the soldier ran toward the store and started grabbing as many children as he could.
“Some of [the kids] were jumping out of my hands. I couldn’t do much for them, but the ones that I could keep with me, I made sure we made it safe to where we needed to be,” he said.
At one point, Oakley broke down while speaking to media in the wake of the tragedy. “I’m looked at as a hero for it,” he started, becoming overwhelmed with emotion, “but that wasn’t the reason for me … I’m just focused on the kids that I could not get and the families that were lost, because, it hurts me, like I lost — like they were part of me.”
Oakley said he reacted how he would want any man to react if his loved one were in the building. “All I thought of was how I would want another man to react if I had a child and I wasn’t around my child at that time,” he said. “So, I just did what I would want another person to do for my children.”
Along with dismissing the notion that he is a hero, the solider said the media attention should be placed on the victims’ families — and not on him.
“I want to reach out to the families that were lost and the families that lost their children, because the focus should not be on me. It should be on the world and what happened in Ohio and Chicago and what happened yesterday,” said Oakley. “It should not be on me.”
In a statement issued on Saturday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott condemned the “heinous and senseless act of violence.”
“Our hearts go out to the victims of this horrific shooting and to the entire community in this time of loss,” Abbott said. “While no words can provide the solace needed for those impacted by this event, I ask that all Texans join Cecilia and me in offering our prayers for the victims and their families.”
“The state of Texas and the Department of Public Safety are assisting the El Paso Police Department as they conduct their investigation,” the Republican added. “We have deployed troopers, special agents, Texas Rangers, tactical teams, and aircraft to the scene in a support role. The state of Texas will do everything it can to ensure justice is delivered to the perpetrators of this heinous act.”