A nationwide movement to spread kindness after several recent mass shootings is taking hold in the Tri-Cities.
New York firefighter Tommy Maher started the movement after a mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival last year. Amanda Barnette of Church Hill first heard Maher’s story on the news then reached out to him on social media to show her appreciation for his efforts.
“He messaged me back and I about fell out of my chair,” Barnette recalled. Shortly after that exchange a mass shooting happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people died. Barnette said when she found out Maher was doing the same campaign to honor the Florida victims she decided to participate.
“It touched me. It touched me a lot,” she said. The campaign refers to the victims as angels and Barnette spends several hours a day learning about each one and thinking of ways to pay it forward in their honor.
“This, for me, is like Christmas in June for people I don’t know.” Barnette said she tries to stay anonymous when possible and tailors each act to the person she is honoring. She honored an Antioch, Tennessee Waffle House victim who was studying social work in college by giving an East Tennessee State University t-shirt to a McDonald’s employee who plans to attend ETSU this fall to study social work.
Barnette said, “She was just kind of shaking her head in disbelief. that’s been a reaction of some. They just kind of shake their head and then I disappear. That’s the fun of it.”
Barnette said she also left baby wipes and hand sanitizer at the baby changing area in the women’s bathroom at the I-26 Welcome Center. She’s given away free bus and Bay’s Mountain Planetarium tickets and helped pay for a birthday cookie at The Cookie Company in Kingsport to honor a man who was killed during the Las Vegas shooting while celebrating his birthday.
She leaves behind a card with a picture of the person she is honoring and a note about their life with every random act of kindness. “I thought that would be not only a way for me to honor [them] but whoever I’ve given that to to remember that person.” Barnette has done random acts of kindness for the victims killed in the Parkland shooting and she is currently paying it forward for the Las Vegas victims.
She hopes people in the Tri-Cities will join the campaign as well to help make the world a better place. “We care and we are reaching out and we will not forget. We will remember them.”