I didn’t learn about the Luigi’s shooting on TV like most people, I learned about it by telephone. I was a Paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne then. One of my three closest friends at the time, Jeff, told me.
“He’s gone,” he said
“Wes. He’s gone.”
His voice told me he was describing a bad dream that he couldn’t wake up from. You know those dreams, something terrible is about to attack you, but in the nick of time you realize that it is a dream, so you wake up only to find the dream has followed you. So you “wake up” again. And again. And again, but you never really actually wake up. That’s how his voice sounded. It wasn’t a dream.
Wes and I weren’t friends, but his girlfriend and Jeff were buddies. The three had gone to Luigi’s the night before to get dinner and were rudely interrupted by a wacko with a shotgun. Jeff said that his first clue that there was a problem was when his female friend’s throat exploded with blood. The same shotgun blast peppered the back of Jeff’s head. I think he still has the two pellets in his scalp. Thank God it was only birdshot.
The female friend ended up getting shot twice, once in the throat and once more in the hip. Jeff sat cross legged on the floor with her head on his knee, using his Army first aid training (he was a mechanic, not a medic) to keep her airway open. Airway, Breathing, Circulation, they drilled into us in those days. Lacking even a pocketknife with which to fight back, Jeff did the only thing he could do, keep his friend alive. Did I mention that she was pregnant with Wes’s child?
Two lives depended on Jeff, and all he could do was keep the airway clear and try to keep her from bleeding out until help arrived. It was a long time coming. Jeff said it took forever. It took too long for Wes. During one of his crossings of the restaurant, the gunman passed them. Wes looked at him and asked him “Why?” the answer came from a 12 gauge shotgun. Wes was dead before he landed on Jeff’s other knee. Not that death prevented his blood and brains from running all over Jeff’s pants.
When I asked Jeff last year what he would have done if he had a gun he said “I’d have drilled that bastard like a he was a two-by-four. “ Instead, disarmed by US Army policy, and by the North Carolina’s lack of Concealed Carry licenses, he spent the longest 20 minutes of his life clearing his friend’s airway and trying not to look at her boyfriend, dead on his other knee. The hospital helpfully sterilized his pants for him and offered to give them back, complete with bloodstains.
If you want to know what the State thinks of you, remember Jeff, or Wes. Either one had plenty of time to make the shot that would have cut the rampage short. The State told them, and every other person in the restaurant, that their lives were expendable. Today the law has changed. Sorta. NC issues “Concealed Handgun Permits” on a Shall Issue basis. But the same law that made licenses “shall issue” also made it illegal to carry in a restaurant that serves so much as a beer. Next time you sit down to eat at Applebees, think about that. You can order a beer (or a martini) so therefore you must be unarmed. Do you think that the next mass murderer knows that? If you were a mass murderer, where would you go to commit your atrocity? To the shooting range… or Olive Garden?
Jeff will always be a hero to me. He kept his head, remembered his training and saved two lives, his own and his pregnant friend’s. He saved three if you count the baby. I do. He was put in an impossible position that day, unarmed and without allies deep in enemy territory. Somewhere between the front door and the salad bar he took a stand by sitting down. I’d guarantee that he’d trade everything he has achieved from that day to this to be put back there this moment with a pistol in his hand. And I’d sell everything I own and give him the money if he found a working time machine on EBay. Wes’s child has no father. North Carolina is perfectly happy to let it all happen again.