When teachers informed Tayir Thomas’s fifth-grade class that students would be dressing as “superheroes” ahead of Halloween, he immediately came home to tell his mom. “He said he wanted to be something different,” Tayir’s proud mother, Britt Thomas, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Instead of a traditional choice like Superman or Batman, the 10-year-old said he wanted to represent a hero that he could relate to: James Shaw Jr., the man who tackled a shooter at a Tennessee Waffle House. “I showed him the news footage of James and said he really saved some people’s lives,” Thomas says. “He said James was brave, and he asked if he could be like him.”
Shaw’s story gripped the nation in April, when the 29-year-old Nashville native rushed a late night shooter taking aim at customers in a Waffle House in Antioch, Tenn. In an interview at the time, Shaw, an AT&T technician, said he initially thought the gunshots were falling plates until he spotted wounded customers on the ground. Shaw initially jumped behind a door for protection, but when he saw the shooter pausing to reload his gun, he took action.
“I chose to react because I didn’t see any other way of me living, and that’s all I wanted to do. I just wanted to live,” Shaw told reporters at a press conference in April, holding back tears.
In a separate interview with a local TV news station, Shaw said, “I was like, he’s going to have to work for this kill — for me, personally. So I just got a head full of steam, and I ran through the door. And it worked out like I wanted it to.”
After hitting the gunman with the door, Shaw grabbed the AR-15 rifle from his hands and threw it behind the counter, forcing the gunman to flee. Four people had already been killed, and several more injured, by the time Shaw stepped in — but his courageous act undoubtedly saved more lives. Shaw himself suffered burns to his hand (from grabbing the gun) and a wound on his arm from where a bullet nearly struck him. But he said he was happy to be alive.
Although the media quickly crowned him a hero, Shaw, the father of one, shrugged it off, choosing to donate the more than $200,000 raised for him on a GoFundMe page to the victims’ families instead. “I didn’t really fight that man to save everybody else,” he told reporters. “I know that might not be a popular thing, but I’m really honest.”
Whether Shaw knew he was saving lives or not, what he did was heroic — especially in the eyes of Tayir. To re-create Shaw’s look, Tayir’s mom purchased the same sweatshirt that Shaw has been pictured in — from a Nashville clothing company called Live Above — and helped him wrap one one of his hands, like Shaw did to treat his burns.
When he arrived at school on Friday, Tayir’s classmates weren’t sure what to make of the outfit. “They had no idea who he was!” Thomas tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Tayir said he had to explain, but he didn’t mind.” Thomas said she even heard her son explain it to his little sister, who was curious about what happened to his hand. “She asked what happened,” Thomas says. “He replied, ‘I’m fighting crime.’”
Thomas’s post about her son’s costume has garnered hundreds of likes on Facebook and earned her son a spot in the local news. But perhaps the most exciting response came from Shaw himself. Along with dozens of comments applauding Tayir’s costume, Shaw wrote: “His hoodie is better than mine… I’m glad I could help inspire 🙏🏿 Love Young King”
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