“The first thing that came to my mind. I prayed, God, please don’t let my daughter have to walk up the aisle alone.”
Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 3 ranking Republican in House leadership, recalled Sunday night that morning last summer, June 14, when a crazed Republican-hater opened fire on a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va.
Scalise, who was playing second base, was hit in the hip. When police downed the shooter, colleague Rep. Brad Westrup of Ohio, a veteran of Iraq, rushed to his side. Westrup saw no exit wound and realized from combat that internal damage was severe.
“I knew I was shot,” Scalise said on CBS 60 Minutes just two hours before the latest mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. “Didn’t know how bad it was. You know, in a weird way, your body kind of goes numb. You know, as bad as the wounds were, and obviously I know now how severe it was. At the time, I guess my body had been shutting down a lot of the real pain. And I was just thinking about what was going’ on at the moment.”
Did you see the shooter?, asked Norah O’Donnell.
“Never saw the shooter.” He was 66-year-James Hodgkinson, who carried a target list of Republican names. He was killed by two Capitol Hill security officers and three Alexandria officers after a 10-minute shootout involving about 100 shots. Four others were injured.
Scalise was med-evaced to Med-Star Washington Hospital, seven minutes that seemed forever. The pilot later told Westrup “I flew that bird like I stole it.”
Dr. Jack Sava was the first to treat Scalise. “When he left the trauma unit, he did not have blood pressure that anybody could find. So that’s obviously sort of hovering on the border between life and death.” On that first day Scalise got around 20 units of blood, “more than you have in your body, ” said Sava.
Twenty days in ICU. Seven surgeries. Six weeks in the hospital. Two hospitals. Scalise lost 50 pounds. Now, at age 51 he’s learning how to walk again.
He’s got to rebuild muscle mass and coordination. Doctors assure Scalise he’ll likely be able to walk unassisted again, possibly even run. Thursday Scalise returned to the House to a bipartisan standing ovation. “You have no idea how great this feels to be back here at work,” he told colleagues.
As a member of congressional leadership, Scalise had a security detail with him. If Scalise had skipped the practice, no armed security would have been on-scene.
“If you would have said at the end of this,” Scalise recalls, “the only person that would be dead would be the shooter, nobody would believe it.”
But now we can.