Pay wall blues: This inspirational SI cover gets religion

Are there any working journalists in this day and age who do not have a love-hate relationship with paywalls, those digital fortresses erected by many publications to force readers to pay for their best online content?

I understand why they make sense. I am sure that they save some jobs. Personally, I favor some kind of micro-payment option that allows readers to pay for individual articles, if they so choose.

This, however, is a topic for another day. I have been waiting to see when the folks at Sports Illustrated would post a complete version of their June 19th cover story on an American hero named Frank Hall, who put his life on the line to help save students at Chardon (Ohio) High School. I still cannot find the text online.

Yes, this story ran in a sports publication, but it is more than a sports story. I want to call it to the attention of GetReligion readers, even the 99 percent who are not interested in the world of sports, because it is one of the best features I have come across in some time, especially if you are interested in journalism that blends faith content into the narrative in an appropriate manner.

I didn’t think that at first. I suspected that there was a faith element in this story early on, but, rather cynically, I also suspected that the SI team would avoid it. Here is a key moment early on that sets the stage for the drama in this national news story:

His eyes swept the room, his pen checking off the study-hall attendance list as the morning announcements ended. The three football players always at his elbow at 7:37 — fullback John Connic, who used Frank’s file drawers as his personal locker, and the Izar twins, defensive end Tom and linebacker Quinn — were all missing that day, John off taking a test and the Izards, thank God, late for school. Besides the cafeteria staff, Frank was now the only adult in the room.

Two loud pops jerked his head to the right. His hearing had always been bad.

Firecrackers, he thought. Then came another pop and another as he rose and took in the whirl of one boy slumped over a table, two others crumpled to the floor, two staggering away with bullet wounds, and a mad scramble of screaming children everywhere in the room.

Here it was, the question lodged in the recesses of all the educators’ brains in America, the one that their minds race to and away from without ever resolving, the one to which the rest of us seem to have unconsciously agreed to condemn them all: What will I do if a kid in my school pulls out a gun and starts shooting?

Here’s what Frank never could’ve guessed, all the years his mind had darted to and from that question: His anger trumped everything; it trampled thought and even fear. It sent his legs barging right through his brown table and straight at the gunman, sent his hand flying up, sent his voice booming, “Stop! Stop!”

Yes, anger is part of the picture — but not the most crucial part.

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