Back in July Wendy, the girls and I took a trip to Texas. This was a two-fold trip, one was to go to a fundraiser for one of the survivors of the Sutherland Springs Shooting, Kris Workman and the other was to travel back up to Glen Rose. We realized right before the trip that this September 20, 2020 was the 50th anniversary of my dad walking out of a church service and killing Doctor English. We had gotten in touch with two of the daughters of Doctor English, Jean and Jane and we wanted to sit down and talk to them about the incident. We also wanted to take a walk around the town and reminisce.
After our stop in Sutherland Springs we headed up to Glen Rose. On the drive north I started thinking about the 50 years between the shooting and today. In 1970 there was no internet. Three days after the shooting my mom fled Texas taking us four boys and everything we could fit in a U-Haul trailer to Pensacola, Florida. I think the first time I went back to Glen Rose was around 1978 when I had visited my dad after he got out of prison. I walked around downtown hoping I might run into somebody I would recognize, or they would recognize me. A homecoming of some sort but it never happened. I think I visited Glen Rose a couple more times before I gave up hope of seeing someone I knew. I had made up my mind that the day we left Texas to go to Pensacola everyone in Glen Rose said good riddance, the troublemakers are gone and forgot about us. I felt that we were shunned because of the sins of our parents and lived with that guilt for years.
In January of 2005, before Facebook, I received a Yahoo message from Cindy Lewis from Glen Rose that said she knew my brothers and me. She went on to say that she had lived down the road and rode the school bus with us. Cindy also said something that stopped me in my tracks. She wrote “You know, I'll never forget the day you guys left..we really missed you and things were never the same for any of us.” They missed us; it was never the same for any of us. Another high school classmate, Shirley Gray messaged and said the same thing and I realized we were not forgotten so Wendy, Jessica (then 4) and I planned a trip to Glen Rose to seek that homecoming.
Several weeks before our planned trip I got a frantic call from Shirley that Cindy had passed away. Cindy was a horse trainer and one of the horses she was training stepped on her foot and took off her big toe. She immediately went to the doctors but several days later she developed a staph infection and before they could get her to a hospital she passed away. The expected trip to Glen Rose had already taken a turn for the worse. Airline tickets had already been purchased, vacation planned so in August of 2005 we went to Glen Rose, Texas on a fact-finding mission.
When we left Glen Rose the population was 1,554 and in 2005 it was estimated a whopping 2,283. I found out the rise in the population was because Glen Rose had become the suburbs of Fort Worth. Driving through town I felt like I had gone back in time. The courthouse was the same with the gazebo to the right of it still had the town’s claim to fame dinosaur track in it. Downtown looked like it did when we left except for a few businesses that I remembered were closed. The downtown movie theater was gone and a restaurant that I would always have dinner before a football game had shut down but most of it was just the way I remember it.
Shirley took us on a fact-finding mission. We looked for court documents, newspapers about the incident. I took a day and found some old friends from high school. We even ran into one of my aunts that still lived in town. She was married to my dad’s brother. My uncle was killed several years after we had moved from Texas. He had stopped to help a lady that had a flat tire. While changing the tire, the lady’s boyfriend came out from behind a tree and shot and killed him. I remember wondering if maybe God had made a mistake and had taken the wrong Howard.
Shirley told us that she had contacted one of Doctor English’s daughters Jane. She wanted to have lunch with Wendy and me. Jane was two years older than me and had a twin sister that we couldn’t tell apart. I was a little apprehensive about the meeting. Here I was meeting with one of the daughters of the man my father had killed. Remember I was still carrying around the sins of my father. The lunch started off with the uncomfortable greetings, then we opened up to each other. She said that her mother and the family would every once in a while, ask “I wonder how the Howard boys are doing?” They always felt sorry for what had happened and always prayed for the best for us. We both talked about our hard times after the incident and how returning to God had saved us.
Jane worked in real estate and tried to sell us some property. Everyone we came across asked me when I was going to move back to Texas. Before Cindy passed away, she and Shirley asked me if I would be interested to coming back to Glen Rose and run for sheriff. We weren’t forgotten and not one person blamed me for my father’s sin. Even though there was a lot of closure that trip I left with more questions than I got answers. It was the same as it was in 1970, just rumors and no facts. Jane told me to go and talk to her mother, Carla English but I didn’t, maybe I was afraid of what I would find out.
So back to our recent July trip. Town still looked the same. This time I had the opportunity to go to and visit our old church. It is no longer the First Baptist Church of Glen Rose. It was purchased by the Methodist church and is now a multicenter for the town. When I explained to the ladies at the center what I was doing there, one of them remembered the story about the shooting. The inside of the church had changed but there were still a flood of memories. It was where I was baptized, where I sang my first solo and where on Wednesday night after youth group we would run around like crazy playing all sorts of games. I remember where Doctor English was parked the night of the shooting.
This trip Jane told me that her twin sister Jean wanted to see me. As we were going over to Jane’s house Jaycee asked who we were going to visit. Wendy told her two of the daughters of the man that my dad had killed. Jaycee asked if this was a good idea. During the reunion of Jean and Jane English I heard joy, peace and content with their lives. Sure, it had affected them, and they went through bad times, but they found that Christ was the answer. Jean asked me how I got over the pain and I concurred with her, coming back to Jesus Christ gave me the peace, comfort and strength to move past the sins of my father.
On the long drive home I thought about what had happened 50 years ago and was amazed at how all of us had survived. A lot of Jean and Jane’s family had got through really hard times after the incident. Some have never recovered. Recently talking to my brother Joel about the incident, I told him how blessed we all were to have ended up like we did. Three brothers with outstanding careers with the Norfolk Police Department and one brother that is a minister. It was the first time that he and I talked about the incident. For the first time I heard about some of his pains and realized I have never been alone in the journey. We all were wounded but we have all found our way back to the one thing that gives us all hope, peace and joy, Jesus Christ.
David cries out in Psalms 13:1-2 “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” But in verses 5 and 6 David comes back and says it all “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me”. Sometimes we just don’t see God’s unseen plan, we just need to trust in His unfailing love and sing His praises. He will take care of the rest.
10/1/2020 05:40:31 am
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Jim has many years of law enforcement experience and has run the safety team at his church for several years. TSA was formed after he realized God's calling when multiple churches reached out and asked him to present at their church.