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Unlikely Friends Bonded by Trauma Survival

A post-traumatic bond between strangers has led to an enduring friendship across generations. At the start of the day on August 28th, 2022, Travis Connor and Ray Shields had only one thing in common: they both wore matching ponytail hairstyles. But by the end, they would be bonded by another unlikely coincidence: both were on the premises of a Safeway grocery store in east Bend when a gunman opened fire, killing two and injuring others.

When the shots rang out. 62-year-old Shields had been using crutches, but tried to grab them and run when his hip gave out and he crumpled, collapsing to the ground. 31-year-old Connor had been glued to his phone, but quickly spied Shields, put him over his shoulder, and ran to get them both out of harm’s way.

That would’ve been the end of their time together, but according to Connor, “You don’t throw somebody over your shoulder and then say bye.” The two exchanged phone numbers and made plans to reconnect. Just three days later, they received grief counseling together at Pilot Butte Middle School, which led to a series of walks and hiking trips where they shared details of their lives with each other. That year they spent Thanksgiving together, and then Christmas. Shields said, “We quite literally fell into each other’s lives.” Connor replied, “It’s a special circumstance that the normal guy has never experienced.”

After his father passed in 2016, Connor, moved to Bend to seek a new start and escape the rut in which he felt stuck. But his chance encounter with Shields helped to catalyze positive change in his life. Connor said, “When I pulled Ray from the gunfire, I felt like the person I wanted to be was there.” Shields, who has no children and for whom most of his family had moved away, felt his friendship with Connor blossom into something like kinship. “In a way, I do see Travis as my son.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

Nothing bonds people together like going through difficult circumstances together. When we demonstrate loyalty, support, and encouragement, we are modeling the character of God, who promised never to leave or forsake us.

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