Aaron Thomas
Aaron Thomas
May 21, 2014


An EF-5 tornado swept through Parkersburg on May 25, 2008, destroying the only home and neighborhood Aaron Thomas had ever known.

As the news media descended on the small community of less than 2,000, it was his father - Applington-Parkersburg head high school football coach Ed Thomas - who faced the cameras and rallied the town, repairing the football field in time for the season's opening game less than four months later.

But tragedy struck the small town again less than a year later - when 24-year-old Mark Becker shot Ed Thomas, his former teacher and coach, seven times.

As the media descended on the town again, Thomas realized that the town's spokesman - his father - was gone. As he stepped up to the first row of cameras and lights, Thomas realized that platforms don't come just from positive achievements and hard work.

"I knew people would be watching with a microscope because we claimed to be Christian," Thomas said to a crowd of about 250 assembled in the auditorium of the IKM-Manning high school in Manning. He returned to Carroll County for the third time two weeks ago to tell his story - and the faith pieces he is often unable to share in school settings - during a program sponsored by the Manning C3 organization - a collaborative effort of the five Manning churches.

Everybody is going to lose loved ones, said Thomas, but each individual also gets to choose how he will honor his lost.

In the immediate aftermath of his father's death, Thomas began reading his father's Bible, noting three passages he had highlighted:

Romans 9:20 - "But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? 'Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'"

Romans 8:28 - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Genesis 50:20 - "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

If one believes in God, one must also believe in hell and in Satan ­- and know that bad things will happen, Thomas said.

But, life is only 10 percent what happens to you - and 90 percent how you respond.

The Thomas family responded with forgiveness - reaching out to the Becker family to comfort them as they faced the fact that their son and brother was a murderer - and encouraged others in the community to do the same.

"How often do you hear ESPN talk about faith?" Thomas asked. "But you can't tell my father's story without faith."