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My Son Was Living His Dream When a Single Bullet Ended It All

This piece is by Kittie McMillan, a volunteer with the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Tim Beaty holding his young son

It was Easter weekend of 2016 and my son, Tim Beaty, had worked late at his job designing and building circuit boards. This was his career—and he was very good at it—but his real passion was playing music.

When Tim was just three years old, he would pretend to be a conductor whenever we listened to classical music. His father, who is also musically inclined, would watch him and say, “He doesn’t miss a beat!”

Growing up, Tim took piano lessons and played the trumpet; he excelled at both. But what he really wanted to do was play the drums. At nearly every parent-teacher conference, Tim’s teachers would tell me he continually drummed on his desk with his pencils or whatever he could get his hands on. His father and I finally broke down and got him a drum set. This was the beginning of an exciting new chapter of Tim’s life.

Kittie McMillan and her son, Tim Beaty

When Tim got married, he and his wife, Jessica, were living and working in Chicago. But when they found out they were expecting their first child, they decided to move back to Carbondale, Illinois—a small town where they had both lived before, with a rich independent music scene. Tim was adamant about wanting his child to grow up in a community where he could feel secure about him playing outside and participating in neighborhood activities. The bonus to living in Carbondale: Tim could get back to doing what he did best—playing music. With a loving wife, a beautiful new baby boy, a good job with an excellent company, and endless opportunities to express himself through his art, Tim was truly living his dream.

But that all came crashing down that Easter Sunday morning. Some college kids were having a party next door to Tim’s home. Suddenly, he heard cries coming from his front porch and frantic knocks at the door. It was two young college girls who had fled the party after gunfire erupted. They were panicked and terrified. Tim rushed them inside and told them to get down. Calmly, he said the police had been called and that he wouldn’t let anything happen to them.

While covering the girls with his own body, a bullet pierced the wall of his home and struck Tim, killing him instantly.

The next morning, flowers were delivered to Tim’s home with a note reading, “To Tim’s son, your dad was a courageous hero and we will be forever grateful for his actions.” There was no signature.

Initially, the police believed that Tim had simply been sleeping at the time of the shooting but eventually, the two girls came forward and told the real story. They wanted to make sure people knew what Tim had done to save their lives.

Later, we learned that the party next door was being thrown by members of a fraternity that had been kicked off campus, and the shooting stemmed from an argument that escalated. Two young men are currently in custody and will be sentenced in the next month.

Tim Beaty and his son, Jacob

The outpouring of love and support from the community of Carbondale was incredible. Tim had become an icon in the music scene and it was clear he touched many lives. Hundreds of people attended his visitation, including the town’s mayor who said, “A little piece of Carbondale died that night.” Person after person told me stories about Tim and how he made them feel included. He would intentionally look for those in the crowd who looked uncomfortable or alone and would pull them into his circle. And while he was known for being one of the hardest-hitting drummers in the area, he had a soft heart. He even had a collection of ceramic and glass bunny rabbits.

Tim’s son, Jacob, is now 7-years-old. He does not understand where his daddy is, but knows that he’s a hero. My daughters have had a very difficult time accepting the death of their beloved brother and often question what would have happened if Tim had not opened the door that night. It’s something we will never know.

Today, I volunteer for the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and advocate for sensible gun laws to keep guns out of dangerous hands. Through Moms and Everytown for Gun Safety’s Survivor Network, I hope to begin helping other survivors of gun violence find the support they need to cope with the traumatic experience of having a loved one taken from them in such a senseless way.

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