I was editing a story for our September issue by former CNN anchor Daryn Kagan about her website that features good, uplifting news stories when I got a terrible news alert on my screen: Ed Thomas, a revered high school football coach in Parkersburg, Iowa, had been shot to death in the school’s weight room. The alleged killer, an ex-player for Ed, appeared to be a disturbed young man with a history of drug problems.
A death like Ed’s would be sad and shocking under any circumstances but it is even more so for us at GUIDEPOSTS because Ed published a wonderful piece with us last December, called Homefield Advantage. In it he recounted how after a devastating tornado nearly wiped Parkersburg off the map in May of 2008 the town rallied around his football team’s heroic efforts to get the school’s playing field in shape for the home opener that September.
It was the spirit of that effort that infused the town with the optimism it needed to get itself back on its feet. Ed gave all the credit to his players and the unshakeable faith of the people of Parkersburg, but everyone knew that Coach Thomas was the inspirational leader. I still remember Ed’s opening line: “There is nothing more beautiful to me on God’s green earth than a high school football field.”
Now he is dead and it is hard to understand how it could be. I remember feeling the same way last fall when tragedy befell the family of Jennifer Hudson. She was in the magazine too. In a world ruled by God, how could there be so much pain? Like Daryn Kagan, I yearn to hear about the good in people.
Ed Thomas was surely a good man who did not deserve to have his life ended like this. I was moved by Ed’s son’s appeal on TV last night that people pray not only for the Thomas family but for the family of the alleged shooter. In a close-knit farm town like Parkersburg, that’s probably what the people will do, for this is not just a blow to Ed’s family but to the whole of Parkersburg. Towns, like people, have a soul, and once again Parkersburg’s is hurting.
Still I remember what Ed said he felt after seeing for the first time the devastation the twister had wrought on his beloved town. Ed saw it not just as tragedy or misfortune but as a test of faith. “My faith had been tested many times and had withstood the challenge,” he said.
Once again a tragic story tests our faith. If you would like to pray for the Thomas family and Parkersburg please post below or go to OurPrayer.org.
Edward Grinnan is Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of GUIDEPOSTS Publications.