It should come as a surprise to no one who knew Wendi Winters that she was a fighter.
To those who knew her as an organizer of blood drives, a Girl Scout Leader, an active member of her church, it also probably won’t be a shock that she took part in a unique adult education opportunity.
Wendi took a course in active shooter training.
As Danielle Ohl reported Sunday, that training saved one life and may have saved five others who survived the violent rampage in Capital Gazette offices on June 28.
Janel Cooley, an ad representative who managed to escape thanks to her own presence of mind, believes that by charging the man who came to our offices with the stated intent to kill everyone, Wendi created enough of a distraction that others had a chance to flee or hide.
Winters grabbed her trash can and her recycling bin, hardly fearsome weapons, and ran at the man with the shotgun shouting for him to stop.
Run, hide, fight.
Active shooter training is more complex than that, of course, but that is the basic message.
Run if you can, hide if you can’t and fight if you have to — even if it’s only to help others survive.
We’ll never know if that’s what went through her mind in those final moments. We like to believe she was planning to knock the shooter down and beat him with her weapons.
That would have been heroic on its own, and an indication that she had not given up on saving herself.
But if Wendi truly did decide she was going to fight even if it meant that she wouldn’t survive, then she exhibited the kind of bravery that is in the finest tradition of her service family, the Naval Academy and the Navy.
Wendi was the daughter of a Naval Academy graduate and the mother of three Navy officers. She believed in the ideals of sacrifice that are part of the tradition of all of those who serve in uniform.
Wendi was the secretary of her father’s graduating class, 1940. She was the sponsor of numerous midshipmen who are now mourning her death across America’s fleet.
We don’t know how nominations for the Presidential Medal of Freedom get started. But if there were ever a case to be made for a newspaper reporter to win one posthumously, Wendi deserves that honor.
The medal is awarded to those who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Wendi died protecting her friends, but also in defense of her newsroom from a murderous assault. Wendi died protecting freedom of the press.