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Meetinghouse shooting victim Michael Fauber’s perspective on incident, injuries and increased testimony


Elder Michael Fauber — the full-time missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seriously injured in a Dec. 3, 2021, meetinghouse shooting in Alabama — came away from the incident with remnants of five bullets in his body, limited movement in his right arm and hand, and a strengthened appreciation for and testimony of the gospel.

“It’s definitely a miracle — I guess I’m supposed to keep going,” said the 18-year-old Fauber, recently released from the Alabama Birmingham Mission. “There’s the probability that I could have been instantly paralyzed from the bullet to my spine. I could have bled out with the shot to my liver.”

Just days after the shooting, his parents — David and Rachel Fauber of the Kettering Ward in the Dayton Ohio Stake — spoke of their “sense of peace” and gratitude for blessings and miracles. And in a recent interview from home with the Church News, Michael Fauber made his first public comments about the incident, his injuries, his rehabilitation and his perspective of the experience.

Elder M. Michael Fauber of Dayton, Ohio, middle, is joined President Chad W. Allred of the Alabama Birmingham Mission and his companion, Sister Melanie Allred.

Elder M. Michael Fauber of Dayton, Ohio, center, is joined President Chad W. Allred of the Alabama Birmingham Mission and his companion, Sister Melanie Allred.

Credit: Courtesy of David Fauber

The setting

Several missionary companionships were hosting Friday night basketball games at the Birmingham Alabama Stake center in Vestavia Hills, using the pick-up games to visit with attendees, share a spiritual thought and gauge interest in learning more about the Church.

On Dec. 3, Fauber and his two companions arrived late, coming from a dinner appointment and finding other missionaries had started the activity, with games already underway.

One player stood out. “No one knew anything about him — I’m pretty sure it was his first time ever coming,” recalled Fauber, describing him as about 6-foot-8 and slender. “He was playing really well — everyone was having a hard time playing against him.”

After the game he was playing in ended, the player stepped away, sitting on the edge of the stage as another game began shortly before 8:30 p.m.

“I went over, sat next to him and asked him what his name was,” Fauber said. “He didn’t respond or anything — he just stared. It was kind of weird.”

The missionary brought out a Book of Mormon, opening to 3 Nephi 11 and relating the resurrected Christ’s visit to the Americas. “I offered him a copy and explained to him briefly what it was, but again, no response, and he just kind of stared straight ahead.

“I decided at that point to leave him alone, so I thanked him for coming, got up and left a copy of the book next to him, just in case he wanted to take it home.”

Read more: Missionary shot in Alabama Latter-day Saint meetinghouse is in serious but stable condition

The shooting

As Fauber got up to return to keeping score, the player pulled a gun out of his backpack. He fired off two quick rounds, waited a couple of seconds and then pulled the trigger four more times.

The first shot hit the elder in his right shoulder and collarbone area. “I didn’t know the other shots he fired had hit me, because my whole body just went into shock. I really didn’t feel the effects of the other bullets.”

Fauber knew he was still conscious, assuming no shot had hit his head or a vital organ. “I was lying there, very blessed to not be in that much pain,” he said, remembering gasping a lot for air.

“I got the overwhelming impression that it all was going to be OK,” he said, mindful of the plan of salvation that he as a missionary had been teaching and thinking of the possibilities. “Option A is I survive this and keep doing what I’m doing — recover and continue with the work here on earth. Or I die and do work on the other side of the veil. So, either way, it’s going to be OK; either way, things will work out.

“And that just increased my testimony of the plan of salvation. That’s something I’ll never forget – I’m there, possibly bleeding to death, but just being relatively calm. Just thinking, ‘Well, whatever happens is going to be OK.’ … For those who don’t have the gospel in their life, I doubt they would have been able to feel that.”

The injuries

Elder Michael Fauber rests at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, after being seriously injured in a Dec. 3, 2021, shooting in a Birmingham, Alabama meetinghouse.

Elder Michael Fauber rests at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, after being seriously injured in a Dec. 3, 2021, shooting in a Birmingham, Alabama meetinghouse.

Credit: Courtesy of Michael Fauber

Five bullets struck the missionary, a sixth grazed his head. All five remain in his body. Doctors have chosen against invasive surgery to remove the bullets, which don’t pose problems nor poisoning threats as they aren’t made of lead.

The first bullet blasted through his right collarbone. “I have this big plate supporting my shoulder and everything there right now,” Fauber says. “It will probably be awhile before I can get that removed, until the collarbone heals.”

Another bullet struck the right shoulder and fragmented. “It kind of exploded and blew up, so there are a bunch of fragments in the same right shoulder.”

One of those shots damaged the brachial plexus, the nerve system running from the spinal cord through the shoulder and down to the arm and hand.

“That’s the worst injury so far,” said Fauber, who initially suffered paralysis of the arm and hand. “Two months in, I’ve been able to wiggle my fingers. And I go to physical therapy, getting motion in my shoulder, trying to loosen things up and help the healing process as best as I can.”

Specialists have detailed the challenges of nerve damage and what he calls ”crazy-long” recovery time, as damaged or severed nerves take substantial time to regrow or reconnect. “They told me it’s very possible that if I do get full motion back in my arm and hand — and I may not — that it will likely take at least a couple of years.”

Another bullet is lodged in his spine, having entered Fauber and perhaps “bouncing around before ending up in my spine,” he said. So far, it hasn’t caused major back issues.

A fourth bullet struck his liver; which has mostly healed. In early February, doctors removed a stent block previously inserted in the liver to stop the bleeding. That procedure wasn’t invasive, said Fauber, calling it “one of the easiest — they just go down through the mouth and don’t even have to cut me open.”

The fifth bullet entered his right lung, exploding as it tore through flesh and tissue and breaking a right rib. The lung also has mostly healed; Fauber’s primary pain comes when deep breaths put pressure on the broken rib.

A sixth bullet grazed the missionary’s where the hair parts on the left side of his head. That “part” is a little wider and more noticeable now after some shaving and stitches there to treat the wound.

Read more: Parents of missionary who was shot in Alabama are grateful for blessings and ‘sense of peace’

The ambulance and hospital

Out of the corner of his eye while lying wounded from the hail of bullets, Fauber watched the shooter run out first, followed by everyone else scattering out of the cultural hall. Soon, the other missionaries returned, having observed the shooter fleeing in a vehicle and able to later provide critical details. They put pressure on the injured elder’s gunshot wounds and talked to keep him awake and alert. They also administered a priesthood blessing.

Elder M. Michael Fauber, injured in a Dec. 3 shooting near Birmingham, Alabama, is photographed with his parents, David and Rachel Fauber, after returning home to Dayton, Ohio, on Dec. 21, 2021.

Elder M. Michael Fauber, injured in a Dec. 3 shooting in Birmingham, Alabama, is photographed with his parents, David and Rachel Fauber, after returning home to Dayton, Ohio, on Dec. 21, 2021.

Credit: Provided by the Fauber family

Paramedics arrived, taking over, wheeling him out to an ambulance for a 15-minute trip to Birmingham’s UAB Hospital. “I remember them saying, ‘We’re getting close — hang on, hang in there,’” recalled Fauber, the ambulance’s bright lights forcing him to keep his eyes closed. “The next think I knew, I was waking up in the ICU.”

It was the start of a nearly three-week stay there, with Fauber calling the first five days in intensive care “pretty miserable” — fading in and out of alertness, undergoing multiple trauma surgeries, unable to sleep much, waking up in the dark, being alone and constantly feeling uncomfortable. “Those first few nights were rough.”

He welcomed the move from the ICU into the trauma center, in a room with big windows and a corner couch where his mother could stay day and night. Rushing from their Dayton home after the shooting to be with their son in the hospital, Fauber’s parents had spent the first nights in the Birmingham mission home.

Still, he did little but lie in bed all day feeling restless. When asked to take brief walks, he could manage to only shuffle around awkwardly. And the planned release to return home and start rehab got delayed by blood infections.

Elder Fauber, missionary injured in Alabama shooting, returns home after hospital release

The Fauber home in Dayton, Ohio, is prepared to welcome home Elder M. Michael Fauber on Dec. 21, 2021. The full-time missionary was shot and seriously injured in a Dec. 3 shooting in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Fauber home in Dayton, Ohio, is prepared to welcome home Elder M. Michael Fauber on Dec. 21, 2021. The full-time missionary was shot and seriously injured in a Dec. 3 shooting in Birmingham, Alabama.

Credit: Provided by the Fauber family

Returning home

Fauber’s first night away from the UAB Hospital was in the mission home before he and his parents set off on a drive of more than 500 miles from Birmingham to Dayton, arriving Dec. 21. He hasn’t forgotten the parting words of Alabama Birmingham Mission President Chad W. Allred. “He told me: ‘It’s OK — just go home and work hard in your recovery and physical therapy and be patient. Don’t get too anxious or upset by having to be home.’”

After the Dec. 21 arrival, he couldn’t get out of the recliner much, but he relished being home, recovering there, being with family and seeing other people. A couple of days later, Elder Fauber was released as a full-time missionary by his stake president, about five months after having started at-home missionary training in late July 2021.

“I thought I was going to be upset by it,” he said, adding, “I realized that the Lord has a plan for me — He knew this was going to happen, He obviously saved me, so clearly there’s work I need to be doing.”

His goal is to work toward eventually returning to full-time missionary service. “I do hope that I can get to a point where my arm is not in pain and I can support it without a sling — even if I don’t have full motor function of my fingers, I’ll probably choose to go back out as soon as I can.”

Today

With his right arm in a sling, Michael Fauber does some shopping in Dayton, Ohio, on Feb. 7, 2022.

With his right arm in a sling, Michael Fauber does some shopping in Dayton, Ohio, on Feb. 7, 2022.

Credit: Courtesy of Michael Fauber

These days, Fauber — who turns 19 Sunday, Feb. 20 — ventures out for doctors’ appointments, specialist visits, physical therapy sessions and other outings such as Church meetings and shopping. Being up and about for more than a couple of hours at a time can be uncomfortable, so he spends most of the day sitting in a recliner with his arm propped up and placed flat on a pillow. “I miss living a normal life, and, of course, I miss being on the mission.”

Investigation into the shooting resulted in an arrest of an 18-year-old man who was charged with attempted homicide, which carries a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Fauber says he thinks often of the shooter and his mental and emotional state, wondering if they’ll have a chance someday to talk. “Hopefully he’d be in a better state that I could talk to him and ask him some questions and just kind of empathize with him. There’s no way he was living a happy life, succeeding in school and in a good family situation if he just decided to do something like that.”

What has the shooting incident and missionary service overall meant to Michael Fauber? “Well, it has changed my life, and I’ve been lucky enough to have — I believe — at least helped change the lives of others through sharing the gospel.”

His understanding of mortal life being “a tiny blip of time” in an eternal perspective has increased, as has his understanding and appreciation of the gospel. “That’s how the mission experience has helped me — to see that the most important thing that we can do is serve others and present them the opportunity to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

And serving the Lord was just a relatively small offering. “I realized my sacrifice of giving two years of my life to spread the word is not really much of a sacrifice at all,” he said. “It’s what we all should be doing … if we see an opportunity to share the gospel, it’s something we should always jump in and do.”

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