Governor Lee & The Covenant School Shooting

Posted at 6:58 PM, Mar 28, 2023 and last updated 7:58 PM, Mar 28, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Addressing Tennesseans in a pre-recorded message from behind his desk, Gov. Bill Lee posted a five-minute video talking about The Covenant School shooting.

The speech comes a day after six victims lost their lives to a shooter at The Covenant School. The shooter died at the hands of the police.

Here’s a transcript of what the governor said in this video:

Tennesseans, I want to say a few words about what our state experienced yesterday. What happened at Covenant School was a tragedy beyond comprehension.

Like many of you, I’ve experienced tragedy in my own life, and I’ve experienced the day after that tragedy. I woke up this morning with a very familiar feeling, and I recognize that today many Tennesseans are feeling the exact same way – the emptiness, the lack of understanding, the desperate desire for answers and the desperate need for hope.

All of Tennessee was hurt yesterday, but some parents woke up without children, children woke up without parents and without teachers, and spouses woke up without their loved ones.

Maria woke up this morning without one of her best friends, Cindy Peak. Cindy was supposed to come over to have dinner with Maria last night after she filled in as a substitute teacher yesterday at Covenant.

Cindy and Maria and Katherine Koonce were all teachers at the same school and have been family friends for decades.

Four other Tennesseans and members of the Covenant family – Hallie Scruggs, Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney and Mike Hill – were taken in an horrific act of violence.

Six innocent lives – three of them were children.

We are enduring a very difficult moment. I understand there is pain. I understand the desperation to have answers, to place blame, to argue about a solution that could prevent this horrible tragedy.

There will come a time to ask how a person could do this. There will come a time to discuss and debate policy.

But this is not a time for hate or rage. That will not resolve or heal. Everyone is hurting, and remembering that as we grieve and walk together will be the way we honor those who were lost.

We can all agree on one thing – that every human life has great value. We will act to prevent this from happening again. There is a clear desire in all of us, whether we agree on the action steps or not, that we must work to find ways to protect against evil.

Yesterday, while we saw the worst of humanity, we also saw the best of humanity in the police officers who ran into danger, directly toward a killer with no regard for their own life thinking only about those kids, those teachers, those administrators.

I had the opportunity to speak with Officer Engelbert and Officer Collazo today – two brave Tennesseans whose actions saved lives.

Gratitude doesn’t begin to cover it – for the utter selflessness of putting their lives between a killer and the innocent.

I am calling on the people of Tennessee to pray.  For the families of victims, for the Covenant family, for those courageous officers, for the family of the shooter, for those who are hurting and angry and confused.

Prayer is the first thing we should do, but it’s not the only thing.

Law enforcement officials and educators across our state have been working for years, especially in the last year, to strengthen the safety of schools. That work was not in vain – the courage and swift response by the teachers, officers, and this community without a doubt prevented further tragedy.

There will be a time to talk about the legislation and budget proposals we’ve brought forward this year. And clearly there’s more work to do.

But on this day after the tragedy, I want to speak to that which rises above all else.

The battle is not against flesh and blood, it’s not against people. The struggle is against evil itself. We can’t forget this – and it’s very difficult – but we are called to not only love our neighbors, but to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, to pray for those who intend harm.

There is hope in the midst of great tragedy because God is a redeemer. What is meant for evil can be turned for good.

May we grieve in the days ahead, but not without hope. May we also act with wisdom, discernment, and grace.

And may we love, especially those who have lost.