NEW ORLEANS – Eyewitness News Morning Anchor Eric Paulsen sat down with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise on Sunday to discuss his return to Congress and normal life after being shot in his left hip during a baseball practice this summer.
The shooting took place on June 14 at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park and left Scalise along with four other injured, however Scalise was the only one left in critical condition immediately following the incident.
The Congressman spent about three months in the MedStar Washington Hospital Center undergoing several surgeries and physical therapy to recover.
Scalise said the shooting happened so quickly that he never saw the shooter. He only saw a tractor that was close to the baseball field.
“I was thinking that maybe someone started up the tractor and it backfired and by the second shot you knew somebody was firing. I just never saw the shooter and where it was coming from and then ‘Boom!’ I was hit,” Scalise said.
Scalise said that he felt a ‘jolt,’ went to the ground and started crawling away from the gunfire.
“I ended up in the outfield and that’s when my arms gave out and at that point I just started praying,” Scalise said.
He said that he heard the two Capitol security officers return fire and credits them with saving his life and the others on the field. Scalise was airlifted from the field to hospital where he was unconscious for about three days.
Scalise said that he talked to his doctors after the shooting and he said that “there were a few times it could have gone the other way.”
He said the outpouring of support and prayers from people is what helped him focus on his recovery.
“Everyday I had encouragement coming in from, not just here back home, but all around the country and all around the world and that was overwhelming in a way, but it shifted your focus to look at how the genuineness and warmth of people all across the country. How can you focus on negative when you see so much positive?” Scalise said.
He said that the shooting made him realize even more so that his faith in God is strong.
“If it has changed me in any way is that I have a deeper understanding of my faith,” Scalise said.
Scalise returned to Capitol Hill on Thursday and was welcomed by a round of applause by his colleagues. He described it as a ‘warm, genuine feeling’ and a side of Congress that other don’t get to see.
“That was just a memorable, special moment. To be able to walk on my own, first of all, into the House Chamber. Something I had been thinking about for a long time as a I laid in that hospital bed,” he said.
Scalise and House Speaker Paul Ryan had an emotional reunion on ‘CBS This Morning’ last week that brought Ryan to tears.
“Just to see his emotion, I’ve seen that from so many other colleagues, but to have the Speaker of the House, we’re close personal friends. This is beyond the positions and the titles,” Scalise said.
The Congressman said that he is back to his normal schedule and will be heading back to Washington for a full work week.
He said he is so thankful to be alive and be able to return back to a normal life.
“I know how close I was to not being here today and I know that it’s a miracle that I am here and I don’t take it for granted,” Scalise said.
The full interview with Eric Paulsen airs on Eyewitness Morning News on WWL-TV on Monday, October 2.
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