Terrorists at the Savannah Street School
I was cut down in a hail of bullets in the middle of a crossfire. Hit several times, the bullet to the spine was the most serious before the final shot was fired. The kill shot was to the top of my head.
My son, John Epps, after fighting heroically, was sprawled out dead in the hallway behind me having been sprayed by about eight rounds to the side and back.
Also dead was Frank Golan, cut down while ferociously defending his position. Vicki, the final member of our team would be felled by a shot to the throat.
Also killed or wounded were about eight (by our count) members of the assault team, made up of several police officers from various agencies.
Three of our hostages had been assassinated by me. Four were freed safe and alive after the assault on our position.
It wasn’t real, of course, but it was very realistic. It was Day 1 of a three-day exercise.
In preparation for the Coweta County Emergency Management Agency’s “Southern Heat” exercise, I volunteered to play the role of a Jihadist terrorist, as did my son.
Two other men, Frank Golan (who was a formidable terrorist) and Jim Daughtry (who played the role of a hostage determined to go down fighting), both Vietnam veterans and members of the local Marine Corps League Detachment, also offered their services, as did four ladies whose names I did not catch.
Besides, three of the women were hostages and one doesn’t want to know too much about the people one is going to exterminate.
Our goal was simple: we were going to make a strong statement by fighting to the death, killing as many police as we could, and by killing all the hostages before we were overcome.
The hostages were held in the abandoned school on Savannah Street in downtown Newnan. We were equipped with weapons, Glock-type pistols that fired 9mm plastic bullets (that stung like nobody’s business and left an orange stain), vests, and eye protection.
We could also booby-trap the school. We could work whatever plan we wished. Our opponents were the combined forces of a number of law enforcement agencies.
For the first couple of hours we taunted the hostage negotiator on the telephone as he tried to establish contact and gain valuable intelligence. They had the disadvantage of not knowing what we wanted: was it ransom, riches, prisoner trade, to make a political statement?
It wasn’t until nearly 11 a.m. that I, the terrorist Jihadist leader, in my best simulated terrorist accent, loudly announced that we were going to kill all the hostages for the greater glory of our cause and die a glorious death. Things moved pretty quickly after that.
When the S.W.A.T. team did breach our defenses, they came in force, they came with flash-bangs, they came with guns blazing, and they came in a hurry.
We gunned down several and wounded many more. In the end, however, we were overpowered more quickly than we expected and were unable to kill the last four hostages.
The head shot I took did draw real blood but the adrenaline pumping through my body cause me not to notice it until a safety officer asked if I needed medical attention. I did not.
The purpose of all this? To see how law enforcement would respond to a simulated attack in our own community and then learn from the exercise.
How did they do? We killed three hostages in fairly short order and I don’t think they could have prevented that. They took a lot of shots as they breached the doors and lost some men. They might take a look at how they might improve on that but it could be that there was no choice.
But they got us. After a vicious firefight, they killed us every one and released the remaining hostages before we could carry out the executions. I was impressed.
The simple truth is that, every day, men and women are working hard to protect us from the unthinkable. Most of the time they do it without fanfare, without recognition, and without applause.
And when the time comes, if it does, they will lay down their lives to rescue and free the innocent.
When these guys crashed through the doors, they didn’t know who or how many were being held hostage. They didn’t know how many people would be shooting at them. They came anyway and they would do the same if it were not a simulation.
It is their job. It is their calling. That is what they do. And it is why we terrorists didn’t stand a chance.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]