Chris Howell

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Independence came for me on July 3rd. The day three bullets nearly took my life, but set it FREE

My hope is that as you read my story, you will find it to be more than just an inspirational piece, but instead see it as a challenge or a call to be free of anything holding you captive.

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This year as we are flying flags and preparing to release fireworks in celebration of the 4th of July, I couldn’t help but reflect on an event that will forever be engraved in my mind.

It all started July 3, 1993 around 8:00 PM. For the most part this seemed like a normal setting for what would be considered a traditional family holiday gathering. We had all the components to a festival weekend: fun, food, and fellowship.

 My girlfriend’s (Dominique), family was coming together and preparing for an all-night cookout to bring the 4th of July in just "right".  In the backyard, people were slinging sauce on ribs, firing up the grill, and filling the ice buckets with ice. Then we came to a startling realization - there was a shortage of alcohol. What would the 4th be like without enough booze?

Dominique’s brother-in-law Jacob, and I realized we had to remedy this problem before the liquor stores closed for the long holiday weekend.  The two of us took drink requests like well-skilled waiters and headed across the bridge to the local liquor store.

As we walked into the store, I had a little swag in my step. I was so excited because this was the first time I had been given an opportunity to fellowship with my girlfriend's family. While we were stuffing drinks into our cart, I kept thinking what a good time we were going to have.

Even though the liquor store was very crowded with people making their last minute purchases, this weekend seemed to have all the makings of a fantastic weekend. I didn’t want to miss any part of the fun. I even tried to make sure that I made the best of our time at the liquor store.

While we were making our final drink selections, Jacob and I mixed and mingled with the crowd in the store. We even had a few laughs. Since we were both young men, we also took a moment to admire the ladies that had dressed up in their red, white, and blue attire with fancy sandals and heavy makeup. All this seemed a bit much for a liquor store run, but it was obvious they were trying to get the attention that we were so graciously giving them.

On the way back to Dominique’s father’s house, Jacob and I had a great conversation; in fact, the dialog was flowing. There were no awkward lulls or gaps during our talk. Over the 30 minutes that it had taken us to go to store, we had connected.

As we approached the house at the top of the hill, we were both laughing and talking. There was no doubt in our minds that our good time was about to begin.

Yet, once we pulled in the driveway, it wouldn’t take long for us to realize the atmosphere at the house had changed. The first sign things had taken a turn for the worse were the tears streaming down Dominique’s face. As I exited the vehicle, she ran up to me with our 6-month old son on her hip. Without even taking a breath between sentences, she shouted, “Let's go, let’s go!"

Her response confused me. When I left for the store we were preparing to stay all night, and now without any notice we were hurrying off with Dominique’s face covered in tears. All I could think was that I had only been gone for 30 minutes. What in the world could have happened at a family gathering that would change things so quickly?

Trying to comply with her wishes but still wanting to get a better idea of what was going on, I asked, “What happened?”

Dominique isn’t the kind of person to make any waves, so she just kept pushing me toward the car. As she put our three children in the back seat of the car, she said, “Chris, I will tell you later. Let’s just get out of here.” I was reluctant, but I complied with her wishes.

As we drove off, I couldn’t stop wondering what had happened.  By the time I pulled off, Dominique began to cry harder. This was only compounded by the noises of our three children in the back seat; their mother was not at rest, so of course they were upset. Then my 6-month old started crying and fidgeting around in his car seat. His wailing began to drown out his mother’s sniffling.

In the midst of this chaotic situation, Dominique began to open up. As tears continued to dance off her cheeks like a broken dream in the wind, she said, “For no apparent reason he slapped me.”

As I gripped the steering wheel, my head swung toward her like something from the movie ‘The Exorcist’, “Who slapped you?” She answered, “My brother slapped me.”

By this time my son had kicked his crying into second gear. All the time I am trying to focus on the road and process the information that Dominique had just shared with me. She looked in the diaper bag for little Chris’ bottle, and realized she had left it at her father’s house while rushing out. This meant we would have to turn around and go back.  At that moment a light bulb went off in my head, ‘bingo’!

I turned the car around as quick as I could. I knew, not only would I get my son’s bottle, but I would also get some answers.  I kept thinking, nobody just hits my lady and think they’ll get away with it, not even her brother. As I pulled into the driveway, I almost jumped out of the car before it could stop.  Dominique’s entire family was all gathered in the front yard; it was almost as if they were expecting us to come back. Walking up to her brother, I said, “Man what in the world made you think you could slap Dominique and that would be okay?”

He didn’t even look up to justify my comments. He just held his head down, and said, “Chris go on.” But I wasn’t hearing it. I just persisted, “Man you must think that I am some kind of fool, that I would allow you to hit my woman and that would be okay.”

I barely got the words out for my mouth as her brother did a slow motion turn. The next thing I knew, I was staring down the barrel of a .22 caliber gun. In what seemed like seconds, he fired off three rounds. It was so quick that I didn’t even know I was hit. I think I was in such a shock that the bullets hit me before my head could calculate what had happened.  One bullet landed in my abdomen and the other two went right above each kneecap, by the time the third bullet hit me, I knew something had happened. I began to run as if my life depended on it, and literally it did. All the time I was running, Dominique’s brother continued to chase me firing behind me.  No other bullets would connect with me, but the three original shots had already done their damage.

It has been over two decades since that 4th of July incident. Since then I’ve made a full recovery.  Thankfully, over the years, I have not had any physical complications from my gun shot injuries. My only physical reminder of this incident is the large scar down the center of my abdomen where I was cut open to remove the bullet. This scar is not just a physical blemish, but it is a sign that reminds me life can change in an instant.  Within less than an hour, I went from celebrating to a crisis.

This chain of events helped me to understand that time is precious and if I was going to do something with my life, I had better move forward with it. Through this 4th of July incident several years ago, God gave me a new lease on life. As fireworks were going off all over the place, my soul was released with a fierce determination for the winner in me to be birthed.  With a renewed lease on life, I began to work harder, get up earlier, stay up later, read more and do what needed to be done to be the best me that I could be, and as a result, God has allowed me to accomplish things that some would call, miracles.

My prayer is that this year, as we celebrate our independence as a nation, you also celebrate your own personal freedom. Several bullets that could have killed me actually set me free. You may not need to suffer a near death experience before you realize how fragile life is.  I hope that you can glean from my experience and decide RIGHT NOW, that you must do whatever you need to do in order to FREE yourself of any anger, fear, jealousy, animosity, or insecurity that is stopping you from being the person you were created to be. The only time you know for certain that you have to release the greatness that’s within in you is, NOW. How will you use it?

Time has brought about a lot of changes in my life. My girlfriend, Dominique, is now my wife (27 years) and her brother is now my brother-in-law. I will admit that family events were a little strained for a few years, but God brought healing in our household, so much so that a few weeks ago we were all in Hawaii and the entire family had a blast. To God Be The Glory!

Happy Independence Day as you walk into your freedom!

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Chris Howell and Chris Howell Communications LLC . All rights reserved.