• October 26, 2020

Life changed in an instant - Odessa American: Local News

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Life changed in an instant

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  • 'We Love our Community'

    The Davis family is grateful for the support of Odessa following the Aug. 31 mass shooting that injured then 17-month-old Anderson. The toddler and twin brother Rhett and parents Garret and Kelby still live in Odessa.

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Posted: Monday, August 31, 2020 4:30 am

For the Davis family, life truly changed in an instant the afternoon of Aug. 31 when a lone, mobile gunman killed seven and injured 25.

Kelby and Garret Davis and their now 2-year-old twins Anderson and Rhett were in the car going to Market Street to pick up some food for a friend’s barbecue at about 4:15 p.m.

“We were leaving our house on Saturday to go to Market Street and so we were parked right there at the red light at 42nd Street facing west to turn left onto Parkway to go to Market Street and while we were just sitting there one bullet went through the rear driver’s side of our car and went through our back seat. At the time, the twins were rear facing because they were under 2 so it went through our car, through the middle seat and then kind of broke up into shrapnel and hit Anderson in the chest and mouth,” Kelby Davis said.

It was hard to get through to 911 because of the chaos going on at the time. The gunman, Seth Ator, had opened fire in Midland and Odessa from two different vehicles. He was ultimately killed by law enforcement.

There were fire trucks and paramedics driving around. Kelby added that Garret comes from a firefighting family and his father is retired from Odessa Fire Rescue.

“We recognized some of the firemen and paramedics who came over and helped us that day. Brad Reese and Kellen Foreman were off duty firefighters who happened to be at a nearby restaurant and they thankfully came to our car and started checking on Anderson, making sure she was OK. We were able to flag down an ambulance that already had another victim in it, but it was an adult. So because she was a child they were able to put her on … the ambulance with that adult,” Kelby Davis said.

Anderson was taken to Medical Center Hospital and after she was checked out, she was stable enough to transfer to University Medical Center in Lubbock by helicopter.

“That is where she had her first surgeries with shrapnel being removed from her chest and her mouth and tongue with the holes in her tongue and lip being sewn up. Then we came home and a couple of weeks later she was able to have surgery to have her teeth removed because the bullet knocked out three of her teeth,” Kelby Davis said.

Kelby said she calmed Anderson down by singing “Jesus Loves Me” to her in the back of the ambulance. She sang so loud that Foreman asked her to be quiet because he was trying to make a call related to the emergency.

She added that she told Anderson angels would fly with her to Lubbock “and they did.”

Garret Davis, who is a clinic manager for First Physicians, said another amazing thing was that one of the providers in Lubbock who took Anderson in when she arrived FaceTimed the parents.

“She was able to see us,” Garret Davis said. “Obviously that didn’t calm her down a whole lot. She was screaming bloody murder, but I thought it was awesome that someone would take the time to realize the gravity of the situation that her parents couldn’t be with her (and) … took that extra step.”

Kelby Davis added that she could not say enough about the first responders.

“There were many on duty that day who were trying to figure out what was going on and were literally saving lives and doing what they could. Then there were so many off-duty. And the two men, Brad and Kellen, who came to our aid were just enjoying a meal at a restaurant and chose to run into the sound of gunshots and help,” she said.

There were also the people at MCH, from the Ector County Sheriff’s Office and police armed to escort everyone coming into the hospital. Davis said they also were escorted out to the helicopter. She said a police officer whose name she didn’t know told the Davises that they needed to breathe and drive safely to Lubbock to be with Anderson.

The officer told the couple that if they didn’t make it, they weren’t going to be any good for their daughter. The nurses and the air flight nurse were all kind to them.

“… As a mother, it brought me reassurance that they would take care of my baby until I got there. One thing that was really neat was a respiratory therapist named Gayla (Daniel). She works at Medical Center and she was actually the babies’ respiratory therapist when they were in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). She was working in the ER that day and she recognized Anderson and kept telling everyone this was one of their NICU babies. So just to see that familiar face and for her to recognize us was so meaningful,” Kelby Davis said.

“I could go on and on about the care we received at Medical Center and even though I am very passionate, especially since then, about pediatric care in our community and how we need to continue to strengthen pediatric care, I still believe they did everything they could that day to help us safely arrive in Lubbock to get the more advanced critical pediatric care that Anderson needed that day,” she added.

Garret Davis said the first couple of months after the shooting were rough.

“She was not acting (like) her normal self and just going through the surgeries and recoveries and all that kind of stuff, the first few months probably were the toughest,” he said.

God was what got them through first and foremost. “We believe that evil was in Odessa that day and God did not have any of that happen,” he said.

“God has walked beside us for every single second since. Then, I strongly believe he has placed so many people in our lives from that moment until now. But definitely other than him, what got us through it was our community. We are very passionate about Odessa. We love Odessa. We love our community. We choose to live here. We were born and raised here, went to college here, have never left here. …”

Kelby Davis said the community has supported them through their trials and still reaches out and checks on them to see how they’re doing.

“… People who didn’t even know us, people whose job was to take care of us, community leaders, family, friends and church people all came together to support us,” she said.

The Davises attend The Bridge, where Kelby Davis is the assistant pastor. James Santana, an Odessa police officer who was shot Aug. 31, also attends the church.

“So we had a shared experience and we are so thankful for his service in protecting us that day,” Kelby Davis said.

She added that the pastor, Donnie Williams, and the congregation as a whole were a great support. She added that Williams was at the emergency room at Medical Center, drove to Lubbock and conducted church services the next day.

“… They’ve all been amazing,” Kelby Davis said. “It’s been continued support for sure, not just that day or the few days after or the few weeks.”

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Kelby Davis said the family is doing well.

“I think it’s changed us for the better. Any tragedy makes you appreciate life more and makes you realize what a supportive community you have; but I think in other ways it takes something from you. It takes a little bit of innocence from you and a carefreeness,” Kelby Davis said.

“Sitting at a red light on a Saturday afternoon, no worries in the world that your babies would be safe in their car seats in the back. … I think we’re doing very well and are just thankful and grateful to be where we are today.”

She added that Anderson’s story spread worldwide. Her brother was deployed in Afghanistan at the time and they were talking about Anderson. He realized it was his niece.

“Knowing that all around the world people are praying and sending us well wishes is something we’re definitely going to carry on to these two children, making sure they always know how to make people feel loved like people made us feel,” Kelby Davis said.

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As for how Anderson and Rhett are faring now, Kelby Davis said they are doing great.

“They are the busiest 2-year-olds. As you can see, we snack all the time and it’s been weird obviously with COVID. They’ve been out of school, but it’s been nice, too, because we’ve gotten extra time with them. I feel like they’ve crossed so many milestones since turning 2; getting big-kid beds and potty trained. (They’re) like little kids now and not babies, so they’re doing great,” she said.

Kelby said she and Garret underwent counseling immediately.

“… Everyone I reached out to said Anderson was too young to remember or anything like that. … I’m also thankful for that and that we have those resources in the Midland-Odessa community. I believe it’s something people should talk about more and normalize more,” she said.

Asked whether the shooting changed her views regarding guns, Kelby Davis said she didn’t want to comment.

“… Everyone’s situation was so different that day, so I know there are some people it has changed. I know some people are more passionately swayed one way or the other. … We never saw him. We never saw the car. … One bullet did that much damage and it was all gone and passed before we could have done anything or seen anything, so I don’t think it’s changed anything we believe,” Kelby Davis said.

A memorial marking the shooting is being planned for Memorial Gardens Park. Davis said she has been in some of the emails about selecting artists and has offered her thoughts.

“… I’m just once again thankful. I think it’s amazing that our community wants to honor everyone who was affected that day and to bring a symbol of hope and remembrance, especially for those who lost their lives and for their families to leave a little bit of their legacy is beautiful. I’m very thankful that Odessa and Odessa Arts are coming together to put that together for our community,” she said.

“I really do hope it honors and leaves some sort of legacy for those who lost their lives and it can always be a way they will be remembered,” Kelby Davis said.

What she wants people to learn from that tragic day is that there is always hope and that it is important to come together.

“… For me, I just hope that people don’t remember necessarily the evil. I hope it’s love and hope and community because that cannot be taken away from us. I think that was strengthened … ,” Kelby Davis said.

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Garret Davis said what he’s taken away is that life is too short.

“… And just when you think everything’s going right in the world, something can happen that completely disrupts your life. But I think it’s important that everybody knows life is going to happen and things are going to happen; but like Kelby said, if we come together as a community … hope is not lost and just because things may not go your way or bad things are going to happen, life will still go on and we can come together and be strong as a community,” Garret Davis said.

Kelby Davis added that they know they can never thank everyone for the support they’ve received.

“It’s impossible because most of these people we don’t know, but I just hope that every chance we get through the rest of our lives we’ll be able to say thank you. Thank you for loving us; thank you for praying for us; thank you for being our community when we needed (you) and we promise that our babies will always grow up knowing the importance of passing that forward and doing that for other people. And that all those people will always be a part of their story,” she said.