No matter that he escaped being shot or even killed at a metro Washington ball field. U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee thinks it's important to carry on with a charity ballgame set for Thursday night.
"I think it’s very important that all of us go forward with this game to send a statement that we are not gonna let the bad people in this country win," Fleischmann told 10News on Thursday afternoon. "Let’s face it — I represent wonderful people in East Tennessee — the 3rd District of Tennessee. We have great peace-loving values. What happened yesterday was a mad man with a gun who had a hateful agenda, and for him to turn a gun on people like myself and other innocent people who are out there playing baseball just cannot be tolerated in America."
James Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill., shot five people before Capitol police on the scene fatally wounded him, authorities say. Hodgkinson, a Bernie Sanders supporter, had railed about Republicans in recent days on his Facebook page.
The attack happened about 7 a.m. Wednesday at a ball field in Alexandria, Va., where Republican members of Congress had gone to practice. Their charity game with Democrats is set for Nationals Park at 7:05 p.m. Thursday.
Fleischmann was mere feet away from Hodgkinson when he started firing near the third base side. The Ooltewah resident hit the dirt along with others before eventually deciding to run to a dugout for shelter.
Police say Hodgkinson fired repeatedly using a rifle before he was hit himself.
Among the wounded was U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana. Scalise has undergone several operations at an area hospital but is expected to recover.
Fleischmann, whose district includes Oak Ridge, noted Wednesday that his own sense of personal security had been shaken by the shooting.
On Thursday, he described what happened on "one of the most horrific days of my life."
Hodgkinson was "sick" and "deranged" and targeted Republicans, he said.
"I hope and pray that no one in America is ever targeted again because of their political or other affiliation," he said. "We must condemn violence. This was a violent individual. It was wrong, it was horrific, and it was a horrible day for me and for the others who were severely wounded and injured."
The congressman said he thinks it's important that all elected officials - and all Americans - be civil with each other, even when times are tumultuous and it's hard to find common ground
"Civility is very important," Fleischmann said. "In my earlier career as a lawyer I was very civil to my adversaries. I’ve tried to continue that tradition in Congress over the past seven years. We can advocate for our positions and I think we need to.
"But we need to do that in a way, I think, that stands out, is civil to one another, and realize that not everyone will agree with us every time
Fleischmann said he won't let Wednesday's mass shooting deter him from representing his district and carrying out his public duties as a lawmaker.
"Obviously, I have concerns for my personal safety, but I’m not gonna change the way I live. I personally do not carry a gun, I’m a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but I’m gonna go out and be with the people who I represent. I believe in being out there, listening to my constituents, whether they agree with me, disagree with me, or otherwise."