In an instant the answer sprang full-grown into my mind. My heart told me that I wanted whoever was responsible to come to Christ and repent for this awful act. At that moment I felt myself completely forgiving him. This forgiveness astounded me, because earlier I had experienced feelings of incredible sadness and intense anger—even the desire to kill the person responsible with my own hands. Little did I realize just how important my decision to forgive would be in the coming months. It would change everything.

I have had a hundred people tell me that they think I’m nuts—that I should hate the shooter and cry out for vengeance. Perhaps I am crazy, but I believe that in those early moments God worked supernaturally, allowing me to forgive completely and immediately because he had plans for me, and those plans required that I settle the forgiveness problem once and for all.

For the next two days, as Bart and I waited in our rooms for surgery, we had a nearly unprecedented number of visitors. People were always lined up in the halls waiting to see us; they came and went day and night. In fact, the crowding was so severe that the hospital converted a double room on our floor into a hospitality suite stocked with fruit baskets, cookies, coffee, soft drinks, sofas, and chairs. The hospital showed a lot of class, but I think crowd control was also an important factor.

The next day I had my first visit from Detective Marshall Slot and his partner Billy Baugh from the Sugar Land Police Department. They questioned me extensively about what had happened, and I cooperated, telling them I would do everything I could to help them find out who was responsible for this murderous attack.

The detectives returned a day later to tell me they had learned that Bart was not about to graduate from college after all. In fact, he was not even enrolled in school. I was shocked at the news and horrified at the realization that, if this was true, this knowledge coupled with some mistakes Bart had made years earlier might distract the police from searching for the real killer and lead them to look at Bart as a possible suspect. Marshall told me that they were looking at every possibility, which confirmed my fears.

After they left I fumbled my way into a wheelchair and rolled down to Bart’s room, where I found him asleep, as he seemed to be whenever I came to visit. It was as if he had crawled into a hole, trying to escape this nightmare. I asked his girlfriend (who had camped out at the hospital since the first morning) for a few minutes alone with my son.

“Bart, what were you thinking? You weren’t even in school? How could you lie to us about graduation?”

Bart seemed to forcibly pull himself out of some private hell as he sat up in his bed. The curtains were closed, and the room was dark. Gloom pervaded the atmosphere, with those areas just outside the edge of my vision in deepest shadow.

At the time the thought did little more than register in my subconscious, but I would later recall this oppressive darkness and do much thinking about it. For now, my thoughts were focused on Bart. A momentary flicker of strange emotions danced in his eyes; he seemed to careen between grief, shame, regret, and fear.

“Dad, I’m so sorry! I didn’t want to tell you because I knew how much you and Mom were looking forward to my graduation. I just figured I could work it out and take the classes next semester, and nobody would know.”

“Nobody would know!” I was furious. “How would we not know? How would they let you graduate? How did you get into this mess in the first place?”

“Things were crazy at work all summer. Some guys quit, everybody was working long hours, and with school starting, I just didn’t have enough time. I’m so sorry! I decided to help at work and make up school in the spring.”

“Do you have any idea what you’ve done? Thanks to this ‘little’ lie about graduation, the police think you’re a suspect! In fact, right now you seem to be their only suspect. You weren’t in school, you told everyone you were graduating, and they think you arranged to have us killed to cover it up.