Friday, December 20, 1974, was the last day of school before Christmas vacation. I was ten years old and excited about the upcoming holiday as I got off the school bus that afternoon. A few doors from my home in Coral Gables, Florida, a man came up to me, introduced himself as "Chuck," and asked if I were Hugh Carrier's son. I said yes, and then he asked if I would help him with the decorations for a party he was hosting for my father. Thinking that he was a friend of my dad's, I agreed to go with him.
What I didn't know was that this man held a grudge against my family. He had been employed as a caregiver for my great uncle, but had been fired six months earlier because of his drinking.
After I agreed to accompany him, he began driving north from Miami. We didn't talk much. I figured since he said he knew my parents then he must be trustworthy. I did not suspect what would happen next.
In an isolated area north of Miami, he stopped by the side of the road, went to the back of the vehicle, grabbed an ice pick and began stabbing me in the shoulder and back. I tried to fight back, but he was bigger and stronger. Pinning me to the floor, he stabbed me in the chest several times.
I was a regular churchgoer, so I remembered Jesus' words on the cross. I cried, "Father, forgive him because he doesn't know what he's doing." I told my attacker if he would just take me home, I would forget about the whole thing.
Miraculously, none of the stab wounds were deep, all less than a half inch, so I wasn't badly hurt. Perhaps, he could not bring himself to kill a boy with his own hands.
"Chuck" began driving toward the Florida Everglades. "Why are you doing this?" I asked.
"Because your father cost me a lot of money," he answered roughly. Then he revealed his next plans?to abandon me but tell my father where I was.
I believed him and knew I was helpless anyway. We stopped off the main road, and he walked me out to some bushes, twenty to thirty feet away. As he turned, he unexpectedly pulled out a handgun and shot me in the head, leaving me to die.
For six days, I was unconscious. Amazingly, when I awoke, I wasn't aware I'd been shot; I wasn't even hungry. I thought I had taken a nap and expected my father to arrive so we could celebrate Christmas together.
Little did I know that my parents were frantic. The local police and the FBI were combing south Florida. They had interviewed my teachers, classmates, and neighbors. No one knew anything. My family offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who could give information leading to my safe return.
I sat down on a rock by the road until a man in a pick-up truck stopped. He figured something was wrong when he noticed a boy with two black eyes and a bloody shirt sitting in the middle of nowhere the day after Christmas. He took me first to his home and then to the sheriff's department.
From there, I called my father. Because my family had received several prank calls, my father asked two specific questions to confirm it was me?the name of our family dog and the number of a sailboat we had used.
The sheriff took me to a hospital in Naples, Florida, where x-rays revealed a bullet had passed behind my eyes and exited my right temple, without causing any brain damage. Between the gunshot wound and the stab wounds, the doctors couldn't believe how little blood I had lost.
Two weeks later, at home, I described the person who had assaulted me to a police artist, and my uncle recognized the sketch as that of David McAllister, the former employee. He was brought in, along with other suspects, but for some reason I wasn't able to identify him. I don't know why I missed him. Unfortunately, the police could not obtain any physical evidence to link him to the crime, so he was never charged.
The attack left me blind in my left eye, but otherwise uninjured. With loving support from my family and friends, I went back to school in late January and resumed my life.
For the next three years I lived with tremendous anxiety. Most nights I would wake up frightened, imagining I heard someone coming in the back door. I'd find refuge in my parents' room, curling up on the floor at the foot of their bed.
Two or three years after the incident, I came across a photo of David McAllister in a desk drawer. I told my parents he was the man who hurt me. Although they too suspected him, they knew nothing could be done about it without new evidence.
When I was thirteen, during a Bible study with my youth group from Granada Presbyterian Church, I realized that God's providence and love had kept me alive. In his hands, I could live without fear or anger.
I finished high school, went on to Mercer University and completed an M.Div. at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1994. With my wife, Leslie, and our growing family, we moved back to Florida where I accepted a position as director of youth ministries at my boyhood church in Coral Gables.
In September 1996 Major Charles Scherer of the Coral Gables Police Department, who had worked on the original investigation, called to tell me that 77-year-old David McAllister had finally confessed. A friend of the policeman's tipped him off?McAllister was dying in a nearby nursing home.
All along the police had suspected McAllister was responsible for my kidnapping, and Scherer wanted to give him a chance to confess. The statute of limitations had run out, but Scherer wanted to close the case?for the police, for McAllister, and for me. McAllister admitted to dropping me off in the Everglades. That was enough.
Scherer called me with the news, asking me if I wanted to visit McAllister. I hesitated. Over the years when I gave my testimony, people would ask what I would do if I could talk to the man who tried to kill me. I always said I would jump at the chance. It was here.
Blind from glaucoma, without family or friends, McAllister was in a North Miami Beach nursing home when I visited him the next day.
I went with a trusted pastor friend and a reporter from the NBC affiliate in Miami. It was awkward. What do you say to someone who'd tried to kill you?
At first, McAllister denied trying to kill me. But as the pastor questioned him gently, he admitted he had dropped me off in the Everglades and left me. He held my hand and apologized for what he had done. I told him that I had forgiven him. As I left, I told McAllister to have a good night's rest. "I will now," he replied.
I visited often, introducing him to my wife and two girls, offering him hope and some semblance of family in the days before his death, less than a month later. I shared the gospel with him, and he trusted in Christ. He was always glad when I came by. I believe that our friendship eased his loneliness and was a great relief to him after 22 years of regrets. He told reporters from CNN I was the best friend he'd ever had.
I know the world might view me as the victim of a horrible tragedy, but I consider myself the "victim" of many miracles. The fact that I'm alive and have no mental deficiencies defies the odds. I've been blessed in countless ways.
And while many people can't understand how I could forgive David McAllister, from my point of view I couldn't not forgive him. If I'd chosen to hate him all these years, or spent my life looking for revenge, then I wouldn't be the man I am today, the man my wife and children love, the man God has helped me to be.
Today I imagined my inner self as a place crowded with pins and needles. How could I receive anyone in my prayer when there is no real place for them to be free and relaxed? When I am still so full of preoccupations, jealousies, angry feelings, anyone who enters will get hurt. I had a very vivid realization that I must create some free space in my innermost self so that I may indeed invite others to enter and be healed. To pray for others means to offer others a hospitable place where I can really listen to their needs and pains. Compassion, therefore, calls for a self-scrutiny that can lead to inner gentleness.
If I could have a gentle "interiority"?a heart of flesh and not of stone, a room with some spots on which one might walk barefooted?then God and my fellow humans could meet each other there. Then the center of my heart can become the place where God can hear the prayer for my neighbors and embrace them with his love.
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