Herd Media

Grief and action: there’s a time for both

“…My phone rang at 10:45 or maybe even earlier 10:35, and it was the mom of the third grader who goes to Covenant and she was hysterically crying, and just begged me to pray with her while she drove to try to find her daughter… and so I just prayed out loud for 15 minutes while she wailed. And it was really hard. It was also a privilege,” says Kellett.

Professor and future chair of the Lipscomb English Department, Dr. Brandi Kellett is very connected to the March 27th incident at the Covenant School. She worshipped with Dr. Katherine Koonce, the headmaster who was killed. A Covenant mom of one third-grade girl who survived is in her Bible study she has led for 12 years.

In addition, she is also friends with the Covenant interim head of school Rhonda Smith and a big admirer of Chaplain Matthew Sullivan.

With the immense amount of evil that took place on that day, Kellett talks about glimpses of hope that have taken place since that day. The first thing that Kellett mentions is the gratitude that everyone has for Dr. Coons, who knew that a part of her job was training teachers what to do when there is a person with a gun on campus whose intention is to kill children.

“One of the glimpses of hope that I have is that the police came so quickly and they acted so quickly. And they saved dozens of kids’ lives. The teachers also saved kids’ lives because they had been trained effectively,” Kellett says.

Another glimmer of hope that has pleased Kellett is the relationship between the Covenant community and law enforcement.

“I was profoundly moved after Koonce’s funeral and in many funerals, uniformed police policemen and Police Chief Drake were at every funeral. The way that they honored the victims and the families and the way that our faith communities and grieving families have honored them has been really hopeful to me,” Kellett says.

Dr. Koonce’s husband, Richard Koonce, has told Kellett and other close Covenant families that when we talk about his wife, we need to talk about all seven, not six, victims. Koonce is insistent that the young woman who killed those children also left behind a grieving family who did the best they could.

Kellett began to speak about the young woman’s family from what she knows from Koonce.

“…a family who did everything they knew to do to protect her and to keep her safe. Who tried even to reach out to get the police involved. They knew that she was not safe with weapons and they asked for help. But again, we don’t have laws that allow that in Tennessee, and so they had to turn the family down.”

Kellett emphasizes with all the families in the community and turns her grief into an opt-for action.

Tuesday, April 18th, Kellett along with many people from all parts of the political spectrum, came together at the Capitol to opt for gun reform. First, she talks about how most people, regardless of their political party, favor reasonable gun reform.

Kellett continues, “…but our political system doesn’t give you room to be all of those things. And so we came together as a nonpartisan group and ally in one way and other people in another way. This is to say we actually think that most Tennesseans do want to have laws where we have to safely store our guns.”

At the capitol, faith leaders and people from all over Tennessee came together in unison to speak up and advocate for a safer Tennessee.

There’s a time for grief and a time for action.

Kellett retold the story in John where Mary thought Jesus was a gardener after He had already died, she didn’t realize it was Him. But, when He said her name, she realized it was Jesus. In the same way, Kellett realizes it is important to say the names of all the victims and to remember them.

“…there’s something so powerful about saying someone’s name. And so, Richard Koonce, said that Katherine would have wanted that, he has relentlessly reminded us that there are seven families who are grieving amidst hundreds of others. And he, in that way, turned his grief into courage to be relentlessly human about what guns do to our country and to our society.”