Ashley Smith is my hero.
Four-and-a-half years ago, she held her husband in her arms as he died in the parking lot of a Columbia County apartment complex.
Saturday, just as she was re-starting her life in an Atlanta suburb, the 26-year-old woman held the fate of a city in her faith.
And when it was all over, a killer was in custody, healing had begun and God's love shone through a horrible event.
It all began Friday morning, just as the daily session in Fulton County Superior Court started. A man overpowered a deputy, taking her gun and going on a spree that ended with four people dead, one person in the hospital and the psyche of a city shook.
That man, identified by police as Brian Nichols, ended up on Ms. Smith's doorstep, the barrel of his gun stuck in her ribs. He forced his way into her apartment, still packed with boxes and only partially decorated. He tied her up, took a shower and finally let his guard down.
He was tired, he told her, and didn't want anyone else to get hurt.
She asked if she could read, picking up The Purpose Driven Life where she'd left off -- on chapter 33: "We serve God by serving others. The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige and position. If you can demand service from others, you've arrived. In our self-serving culture with its 'me first' mentality, acting like a servant is not a popular concept."
Read it again, he asked.
Read it again, I ask.
I spent my Friday in downtown Atlanta on the front lines of the weekend's biggest story. I picked up coverage of the shootings for Morris News Service and was enthralled by the day's events. I flittered from press conference to press conference and filed my story before heading home to Thomson, completely exhausted.
At home, I watched coverage until long after midnight and was up early Saturday to get back in front of the television. And as word filtered out that Mr. Nichols had been peacefully captured, my wife talked about how miraculous it was that no one else was killed ni his wake.
That miracle is embodied in a 26-year-old woman who just wanted to see her daughter while a killer held her hostage. It's a woman who made her captor eggs and pancakes for breakfast Saturday morning. It's a woman who spoke of God with a man who had strayed far from the path of righteousness.
As an anchor on CNN recounted Ms. Smith's story Sunday night, she said it is stories like this that make you believe in fate.
It is stories like this that make you believe in faith.
And through faith all things are possible.
Just ask Ashley Smith.