Congressman and House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise has made an appearance at the annual National Prayer Breakfast to recall his experience of being shot during a brutal attack on the Republican baseball team last June. Scalise talked of his deep faith in God and how that impacted him during those terrifying moments when he did not know whether or not he would live.
Before Scalise took to the stage, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Democrat Cedric Richmond gave some powerful remarks about that fateful day last summer. He revealed details of his long and enduring friendship with Scalise that goes far and beyond the political divide.
“Many people wonder how Steve and I can be such great friends when we disagree on 80% of most issues,” Richmond opened in his remarks at Washington Hilton Hotel. “Let me clarify, we don’t differ on the end goal of helping the needy and protecting our citizens and caring for our elders. We don’t disagree on where we want to end up. We know that we want the same thing.”
“Our faith unites us,” Richmond continued. “Our faith allows us to put purpose first. We put purpose over politics. We put purpose over profits. At the end of the day, we know that we are here on earth to fulfill a purpose – to make this world a better place.”
Cedric, who is the U.S. Representative for Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district, added: “We agree that we were all created in the likeness of God.”
“We agree on what the law requires of us: to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God,” he said.
Cedric revealed that he and Scalise had “forged a connection” during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We asked that “God would give us the ability to fix what needs to be fixed,” declared.
Then, he talked about the day of the shooting. James Hodgkinson, a left-wing activist, opened fire on the Republican baseball team with an SKS rifle as the group practiced in Alexandria, Virginia. Scalise, along with two others, was struck by a bullet and seriously injured. The heroic actions of his colleagues and two Capitol police officers likely saved his life.
Cedric explained that when they found out about the brutal attack, they knelt in prayer.
“We got the news that there was a shooting at the Republican practice. So, we came together. We got the news that Steve was one of the people that was hit,” he recalled.
“So our coach called in all of the Democratic baseball team. The first thing we did was we got on our knees and prayed. We prayed for safety, health and divine intervention. We prayed for a miracle.”
“It wasn’t about politics, it was a reminder of how fragile life is,” he added.
“When I got to the hospital, the only thing I could think of was not Steve, I was thinking about his wife and kids. How do you tell them what happened?”
“They are in New Orleans getting ready to come up to a baseball game and watch their Dad lose to me..” he quipped.
“The one thing I knew about Steve was his faith in God and his love for his family. I knew it would take a lot more than one bullet to make him question his faith.”
Richmond called him a “great leader, and a great man of faith,” before introducing the man himself, Steve Scalise to the stage.
“It’s a true friendship, it’s a deep friendship,” Scalise said of Richmond in his opening remarks.
“Sure, we have differences. But our differences are what make our country great – the fact that we can fight for what we believe in.”
Scalise marveled at the fact so many people were desperate to attend a worship and prayer gathering in the early hours of the morning.
“Who would have thought that one of the hottest tickets in Washington is to gather together at 7.30am with other people of faith?!” he said. “It is a great reminder of the times when we get to work together and share our faith together.”
Then, a word about the faith-filled founders of the United States.
“This was a nation founded with a deep belief in God,” Scalise explained. “God who gave us life, gave us liberty.”
“You can’t separate church from state,” Scalise declared. “Faith is part of who I am. It is part of the set of values that I bring to this job. The rights we have were given to us through men, by God.”
He went on to explain how the attention surrounding the bipartisan congressional baseball game for charity took a huge increase following the shooting. Instead of 10,000 people showing up, over 25,000 turned out to watch.
“Instead of raising 500,000, the event raised over $1.5 million,” he said.
Scalise went on to recall that horrifying day and revealed the thoughts and prayers that went through his mind as he contemplated his own mortality.
“The first shot comes, and I saw a tractor. I thought maybe it had backfired,” he explained. “Then the second shot came and I was hit. I started crawling to try and get away. Then, my arms gave out. I could hear the gunfight. I knew that my capitol police detail was engaging with the shooter.”
Isolated in the middle of the baseball field and with nowhere else to turn, he sought God.
“I started praying. I said ‘I’m going to put this in God’s hands.'”
This dialogue with God is nothing out of the ordinary for Scalise, who explained that he talks to the Lord every single day.
“I talk to God every night,” Scalise said, who detailed. “I knew I was hit, I couldn’t move. The first thing that came to my mind was ‘God, please don’t let Madison walk up the aisle on her own.'” I just didn’t want to see that visual carry itself out.”
Scalise said he then heard more gunshots from a different caliber of gun. He knew that his security was doing all they could to subdue the shooter.
“I prayed that they would be successful in their duty,” Scalise said. “Both were shot in the shootout and continued to battle the gunman.”
“This would have been a massacre if not for the US Capitol police and Virginia police who came behind them,” Scalise added.
“By the grace of God it wasn’t. God answered our prayers. There were miracles that day.”
Scalise recalled some of the miraculous occurrences that took place on that awful day.
He explained how one of the bullets fired was dangerously close to hitting one of his political collegues. It was only after they looked closely at the crime scene that the realized the bullet had been redirected by a tiny piece of metal in the fence behind which the shooter was opening fire.
“The bullet hit a chainlink fence and veered just enough not to hit him,” Scalise stated.
Scalise explained how one of his colleagues was a former veteran surgeon, who was used to dealing with gunshot trauma in the battlefield. In 2005-06, Rep. Brad Wenstrup served a tour in Iraq as a combat surgeon. The military vet rushed to Scalise’s side to help treat his wounds and keep him alive.
“He applied a tourniquet. My surgeon said without that I wouldn’t have made it,” Scalise explained. “Even with that on I had a zero blood pressure. I basically lost all my blood, but somehow made it through.”
Steve got stuck in traffic as he was being rushed to hospital in an ambulance. When the crew spotted a helicopter, they took a gamble and decided to turn back, hoping that the aircraft was destined for the baseball field. Thankfully, the helicopter was there waiting for Steve when they got back. Four minutes later, he was in the ER being treated by doctors. Had they not made that split-second decision, Steve said he would not have made it.
“I had a lot of surgeries. By the grace of God I made it through,” he declared.
— Rep. Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) February 8, 2018
When the news of the shooting broke, prayers and well-wishes poured in from around the globe. Though Steve did not know most of the people who were lifting him up in prayer, he said that he felt every single one of them.
“I can’t thank you enough for those prayers,” Scalise said.
“When you pray for people you don’t know, they feel it. I felt the prayers from colleagues from other states. Thank you for them. It truly did help lift me and my family up through the incredibly difficult times.”
“I was overwhelmed with all the love, he continued. “I got to see what is good in people and what is great about this country.”
During his recovery, Steve returned to his Bible reading from that fateful day, June 14 2017. He could not believe what he was reading. “I got goosebumps,” he said.
Psalm 27 –
“The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.
One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.”
“The man who meant to do evil stumbled and fell through the grace of God. I still get goosebumps to this day when I read it,” Steve said.
I’m back. pic.twitter.com/vuqYQorM6U
— Rep. Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) September 28, 2017
“God is good and God is great. God has blessed this great nation.”
“We are a nation that was founded under God.”