Tennessee's governor on Tuesday urged the state's citizens to respond to the Nashville school shooting with prayer, love and forgiveness, as he hinted that policy changes would be debated down the road.
The shooting at The Covenant School, a Christian private school in Nashville, killed three children and three adults, in addition to the shooter.
"I'm calling on the people of Tennessee today to pray for the families of victims, for the Covenant family, for those courageous officers, for the family of the shooter, for those who are hurting, and angry and confused," Gov. Bill Lee said in a video.
What happened at The Covenant School yesterday was a tragedy beyond comprehension. I want to speak directly to Tennesseans about the way forward. pic.twitter.com/3poMgYgxeq— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) March 28, 2023
"Prayer is the first thing we should do, but it's not the only thing," he added.
Lee revealed that his wife, Maria, was scheduled to meet with one of the victims, Cynthia Peak, a substitute teacher, on the evening of the tragedy. Maria was friends with Peak and Katherine Koonce, the school's headmaster. Koonce also was shot and killed.
"Cindy was supposed to come over to have dinner with Maria [Monday] night after she filled in as a substitute teacher at Covenant," Lee said. "Cindy and Maria and Katherine Koonce were all teachers at the same school and have been family friends for decades."
There will "come a time," he said, to "discuss and debate policy."
"But this is not a time for hate or rage," he said. "That will not resolve or heal."
Lee added, "There's a clear desire in all of us whether we agree on the action steps or not that we must work to find ways to protect against evil."
Lee thanked the work of local police who entered and killed the shooter, Audrey Hale, 14 minutes after the first emergency call was made.
"The courage and swift response by the teachers and officers in this community without a doubt prevented further tragedy," he said.
Lee, a Christian, closed his speech with biblical language.
"The battle is not against flesh and blood. It's not against people," Lee said. "The struggle is against evil itself. We can't forget this and it's very difficult. But we're called to not only love our neighbor, but to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, to pray for those who intend harm. There is hope in the midst of great tragedy because God is a Redeemer. What is meant for evil can be turned for good. May we grieve in the days ahead, but not without hope. May we also act with wisdom, discernment and grace."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Jared C. Tilton/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.