Shots rang out. There were screams. And the impassioned speaker at the political rally crumpled to the platform in a heap. The year was 1972, and the speaker was George Wallace, the highly controversial governor of Alabama. The assassin’s bullet narrowly missed killing him, but it did sever his spinal cord. Wallace spent the rest of his life in intense pain and never walked again.
The man who fired the shot was captured almost immediately. His name was Arthur Bremer. He had been stalking Wallace for over two weeks, waiting for the perfect moment to make his move. He was always in the crowd, anonymous, biding his time.
Bremer had been living in his car for several days before the attack. Police described it as a “hotel on wheels,” with a half-eaten sandwich, a portable radio with a police band, a women’s umbrella, a duffle bag with several changes of clothes, and, hidden in the back seat and trunk, a large supply of guns and ammunition.
Later, authorities also found a journal that Bremer had written. It was his personal diary, a document seething with rage and obsessed with violence and death. It contained all of Bremer’s plans to assassinate Governor Wallace.
Wallace wasn’t Bremer’s original assassination target. His original target was Richard Nixon. But after following him for two weeks, he determined that Nixon was too carefully guarded to get a good shot. So, Bremer shifted his assassination goal to Governor Wallace.
Though both Nixon and Wallace were known for their controversial political views, Bremer’s reason for choosing them was not because of their politics. Bremer chose politicians, because they were extremely visible. He wanted the assassination to be a famous, horrendous, dramatic killing.
But also in Bremer’s diary, alongside pages of tormented outpourings, there was another entry. Written in Bremer’s own erratic handwriting, it told an amazing story:
Two years before, Bremer had decided that he would wage a bloody war against society.
He was living in Milwaukee, and his plan was to stage a shootout in a highly public setting and kill as many people as he possibly could. He spent days and weeks working out his murder strategy. After thoroughly researching the city, he identified the ideal location and the best time of day to carry out his plan. On the appointed day, in a state of fury, Bremer loaded up his car with guns and ammunition and set out to commit a mass murder.
But on the way, Bremer suddenly realized he was hungry. He decided to make a brief stop for a cup of coffee and a doughnut. Noticing a small greasy-spoon café, he pulled over and hurried in. It was completely empty inside, except for the waitress and him. Bremer sat down, ordered, and went back to his desperate, fevered thoughts.
The waitress came back with his order and started chatting with him. Not about anything “important” really, just chatting. Waitresses see lots of customers and often have a great ability to read people. The waitress was just being friendly, extending kindness to someone she could see was terribly troubled.
What happened next was amazing.
And bear in mind that this is a true story.
In his journal, Bremer wrote that, after spending time in the café and talking to the friendly waitress, he lost interest in the mass murder and decided not to go through with it.
He went back home and didn’t kill anybody.
So, in the city that day, there were several people, who knows how many, whose lives were saved, and they never knew it.
It may have seemed like a typical, ordinary day to them, but in reality, it was absolutely momentous. They were scheduled to die, but because a waitress in a run-down, third-rate café extended herself in kindness, their lives were spared.
And they were never aware of it.
Who knows, one of those people could be someone you love.
Or it might even be you!
And, of course the waitress never knew. All she knew was that one day a man came into the restaurant looking very troubled, and since she had a little free time on her hands, she tried to cheer him up.
What could be simpler?
© 2019 David Evan