‘He didn’t expect to leave this earth so soon’

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A family photo of Josh Pinkard, his wife Terra and their three children (contributed)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Holly Pond native Josh Pinkard was one of five victims in Friday's workplace shooting at the Henry Pratt Company, located west of Chicago in Aurora, Illinois. Pinkard's death was confirmed by multiple sources Friday night, then by the Aurora Police Department on Saturday. Pinkard, who graduated from Holly Pond High School, transferred to the Aurora plant, where he was the plant manager, from Albertville last year.

Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said five people died in the shooting. The gunman, an employee of Henry Pratt who was reportedly being fired from his job,  was killed by police at the scene. He was identified as Gary Martin, 45.

According to WGN TV in Chicago, six people were wounded, five of them police officers. "It all started about 1:24 p.m. Friday when police received multiple 911 calls from inside the Henry Pratt building, officials said. Four officers arrived on the scene at 1:28 p.m. and were immediately fired upon; two were shot. The additional three officers shot were part of the next wave of first responders."

Pinkard’s family remembers him as a loving and kind-hearted father and husband. His uncle David Chambers said Pinkard planned to come back to Alabama.

“Josh was a young man that everybody loved, he had one of those personalities that attracted people,” Chambers told The Tribune’s Birmingham news partner, WVTM 13. “He was kind-hearted, generous, loving, funny, intelligent, athletic, a great day, husband, son, nephew.”

Chambers continued, “His mother called me and said, ‘Start praying, Josh has been shot. We don’t know any details.’ Of course, we lean upon the lord and his strength is our strength, but none the less it hurts. We understand there’s evil in the world, people ask, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ Do we like what he did? No. But the scriptures teach us that we’re not the judge, we are to love even though we can’t stand what maybe somebody has done. Right now, all we can do is trust that God’s got this.”

Said Chambers, “We know where he’s at based upon his relationship with God. And that gives us some comfort. Does it relieve all our pain, no it doesn’t, but it does give us comfort in knowing that when he took his last breath upon this earth, he got to see Jesus. He got to see Jesus, face to face, and God said, ‘Welcome in, my son.’”

Pinkard’s wife, Terra, said her husband texted her after he was shot. She posted the following to social media:

“You guys. I can’t even begin to start saying thank you for the love that has been poured out on us. Friday afternoon, the day after Valentine’s Day, was a literal nightmare. I received a text at 1:24 from my precious husband that said I love you, I’ve been shot at work. It took me several times reading it for it to hit me that it was for real. I called his phone several times, text, FaceTime, nothing. I called his plant and a lady answered and said she was barricaded in her room and police were everywhere.

“Of course, my heart dropped. I grabbed my children and drove to his plant where I met a cop blocking off the roads. She couldn’t tell me anything. I drove to the nearest hospital. He wasn’t there. I drove to the second nearest hospital. Not there. While waiting there on news, chaplains, my pastor, neighbors, his coworkers came to sit with me and hold my hand. I waited for hours. I finally got in touch with the Aurora PD, who told me of a staging area for victims’ families.

“I don’t know how my body drove itself there but it did. The police told us there were fatalities. He read my husband’s name. I immediately left and went to get my kids. With my pastor’s help, since family was still on planes to get to us, I told my children their dad did not make it and is in heaven with Jesus. I’ve never had to do something that hard. Yesterday was filled with police conferences and visiting a coroner.

“Every thought in my mind and everything I see reminds me of a precious memory of my husband. I’ve been asked so many times by the media to talk about him. I literally can’t talk out loud about this lovely man without breaking down in sobs. I’m crying now as I write this. I want to shout from the rooftops about how amazing Josh was! He was brilliant! The smartest person I’ve ever met! My best friend! The man I would have leaned on during devastation like this who would tell me it’s ok Terra, it is all going to be fine. The man who was dying and found the clarity of mind for just a second to send me one last text to let me know he would always love me. This unbelievable person was robbed from us.

“The next few days are going to be filled with decisions to make on how to say my final goodbyes to a man I always said I couldn’t live without. But you guys have poured out your love on me. You have covered me, my children, our families with so much love and prayer. It is the only way we are doing it guys. Please continue to pray for my mother in law. This is her second child she will bury. Please pray for my sister in law. Josh was her twin brother. Please pray for my children. They are struggling because they miss a daddy who loved them so much. Please pray that somehow I can put that one foot in front of the other. And again thank you for all the kindness you have shown to us.”

Said Chambers, “He didn’t expect to leave this earth so soon. His plans were to come back to Alabama with the company here, this was just a temporary assignment. He had plans for the future, as most people do, but we’re never promised another breath, so I just encourage people to be ready at any time.”

As of press time, service arrangements for Josh Pinkard have not been published.

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