Monday, March 14, 2005

ASHLEY SMITH is one of the most awesome human beings I have ever read about. She is extraordinary -- and that word is overused, but it's true of her. There are not many people who, when taken hostage by an armed and physically imposing man who had already raped one woman and shot to death several others, would have the presence of mind to stay calm and talk him out of committing another murder.

But it's more than that. It's not just that Ashley Smith kept her head and acted in such a way that Brian Nichols did not kill her. It's that she talked to Nichols, engaged him in conversation, made him pancakes and eggs, showed him photographs of her family, read the Bible to him, treated him like a human being.

And during those 7 hours and 30 minutes, Brian Nichols acted like a human being.

Progressively, she gained the trust of the man who, at that time, was Georgia's most-wanted fugitive, with a $60,000 reward on his head in connection with the slayings. "I really didn't want him to hurt himself, or anyone else to hurt him," she said.

Watching TV news about the carnage being blamed on him, and the multi-agency law enforcement operation mounted to capture him, she said Nichols told her: " 'I cannot believe that's me on there.'

"He needed hope for his life," Smith said. "He said, 'Look at my eyes, I'm already dead.' I said: 'You're not dead. You're standing right in front of me. If you want to die, you can. It's your choice.' " ...

Smith's former captor, who described himself at first to her as "a soldier," offered no resistance to police, and surrendered by waving a makeshift white flag. "If you don't turn yourself in, lots more people are going to get hurt," Smith said she told him. She said Nichols called her "an angel," and said God had led him to her door so that she'd tell him he had hurt a lot of people.

She asked him, she said, if he believed in miracles. "You got out of that courthouse with police everywhere, and you don't think that's a miracle?" Smith said. "You don't think you're supposed to be sitting right here in front of me…. Your miracle could be that you need to be caught for this. If you go to prison, then you need to share the word of God with all the prisoners there."

Let's hope that Brian Nichols does go to prison, so he can have that opportunity to redeem himself by helping others. Let's hope that the chance for a new life and a changed heart that Ashley Smith gave him does not get snuffed out by a needle in his arm and poison running through his vein.

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