I didn't know Ed Thomas. I only knew of him.
He had been the head football coach at Aplington-Parkersburg for my entire lifetime. I remember watching his teams roll over all comers at the state finals in the UNI Dome when I was a kid. My high school youth minister was from Parkersburg and had worked with the football team as a trainer. She spoke highly of him. I heard friends from college speak in reverential tones about "Coach", almost always talking more about Ed Thomas the man than Ed Thomas the football guru.
He was shot in the head today in the A-P high school weight room in the presence of 30 students by a person who was recently denied an assistant coaching position. This tragedy was "close to home" in the sense that Parkersburg is a few minutes from where I grew up...but it's not like I knew the guy.
I didn't know Ed Thomas, but, in a sense, I knew him through the impact he made in the lives of people he encountered.
Perhaps this is why I'm so overcome with sadness today as the news of his murder came through my Twitter feed. All that I had heard and read about Ed Thomas made me proud to be an Iowan. In the same way, the person that took his life made me sad and ashamed. It appears that the murderer had some personal demons in his life. I will pray for him and his family just as fervently as I do for the Thomas family and the community of Parkersburg.
The Des Moines Register has become the hub for all reaction related to the Thomas killing. KCCI has a good recap of Coach Thomas' life, including his impact on Parkersburg after the hurricane destroyed 1/3 of the town, the school, and the football field.
The stories will continue to roll in. I will read them with interest and weep with those who are grieving. "God comforts us in our sorrows so that we can comfort others in their sorrows"...this is what the funeral liturgy tells us.
I only hope God can provide enough comfort for a community that has endured its share of heartache in the past year.
Here's a great E:60 piece done last year about Coach Thomas and the 2008 Falcon football team.