Opinion

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Scalise Reveals His First Thoughts After The Shots Rang Out

"Back in the Game" Book

Rep. Steve Scalise House Majority Whip
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The following is an excerpt from Rep. Steve Scalise’s new book, “BACK IN THE GAME: The Majority Whip’s Remarkable Fight for His Life,” which will be released on Nov. 13, 2018.

At first, from where I stand, I don’t think we’re under attack.

After the bang, the first thing I see is a tractor, so the first thing I think is tractor.

If I register anything it’s Oh, a backfire.

The notion that we’re being attacked — that I am under attack — doesn’t fit. It doesn’t work; it’s dissonant, a glitch, I’m watching a movie with the wrong sound, a horror flick with a laugh track, a comedy with panicky strings. It’s a warm and gorgeous day, the grass fresh cut and loamy. I feel the sunbaked vinyl numbers on my jersey, warming my back. I’m flooded by all the sensations you experience when you’re smiling and joking with your friends and outside playing a kid’s game, and these things don’t make sense with gunfire attached to them. It takes me too long, and I’m just standing there, because the notion is too confusing.

Although when I think about it now, this strange melding of opposite things, I realize it’s what that whole day, and everything that came after it, was about. It’s fitting, really. In the most literal sense, bringing different ideas together is actually my job. I’m the House majority whip, after all, the “whipperin,” a term taken from the old fox chases, where someone had to go after the stray hounds to crack whips and fire rat-shot over their heads to scare them back into the pack. The whipperin brings together creatures that sometimes stray very far apart. My job is to bring people together to pass bills, to build coalitions, but I’ve never in my life brought people together as effectively as I did when I was on the brink of death.

That day began a convergence of people from all walks of life, people of very different personal backgrounds and different political inclinations, people who otherwise have had, if we’re being honest, very little common cause in recent years. So whether you personally share the same conservative principles I have or subscribe to a much different political philosophy, I hope even the most cynical among you will acknowledge, if only silently and to yourselves, that what this story suggests most of all is that there’s something very unique and very powerful about you, about all of us.

You may have heard the story of this baseball shooting and moved on, never having known how seriously some of us were hurt, how close to death we were.

You may not have known how long the road to recovery has been and how much of it still lies ahead. Certainly, there have been many, much bigger tragedies, affecting many more people, since that day.

Still, I — one man struggling to survive — received so much support, and so many prayers, and so many gestures from so many far-flung places, I felt like I was being lifted up by the entire nation. In all the kindness and humor and gifts and prayers pouring into my one little hospital room; in all the talent that was brought to bear for my benefit, I was made to feel that an attack on me was an attack on us all. And I was provided a reminder that this nation is special because of how many different kinds of people share it, not in spite of that. It’s the reason I’m alive. So I’ve endeavored to make this a book that can welcome anybody, and perhaps challenge everybody.

On the day I was shot, hundreds of pieces of bullet and bone split apart inside me and took me right up to the brink of death, but it was also a day hundreds of things came together so I could survive. As I’ve looked back on the past year, I’ve learned new and interesting and inspiring things about many of these people who saved me. I’ve learned their many different stories. I’ve tried to learn who they are, these people who played parts, some small, some almost cinematically large, in saving my life.

And I’ve decided to try and tell the story through them.

This is not just a story about the hundreds of pieces of metal and bone that almost killed me. It’s about the hundreds of new pieces of my life. The new people in my life. And I figure, how better to tell this story? How better to tell the story of all the things that had to go right, the hundreds of little miracles and acts of heroism that had to happen for me to be here telling this story, than through those very special people — the heroes God put in place to make those miracles possible?

The way I see it, it’s a very small step toward returning the favor.

But right now, small steps are nothing to scoff at.

Congressman Steve Scalise was elected to Congress in May of 2008, after serving in the Louisiana State Legislature from 1996-2008. He currently serves his colleagues as the House Majority Whip, the third-highest position for House Republicans.


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