Dec. 2, 2009 was bad day for prison guard Nate Sasser. Two death row inmates pulled weapons, stabbed him, and left him for dead in a pool of blood.
“They saw me get up, followed me to the door,” Sasser said, recalling the attack. “The Lord led me out.”
Afterwards, Sasser laughed about what happened. He was determined not to let one incident keep him from the job he considered a first step to a career in law enforcement.
He thought once the 14 stab wounds healed, he’d be back at Lieber Correctional Institution, a level-three prison in Ridgeville, S.C. But in the weeks and months that followed, emotional wounds erased that plan and alienated him from the two places he considered safe—home and church.
“I went to church a few days later—” Sasser said before his wife, Kim, cut him off: “More like two weeks,” she said as she lifted three fingers he couldn’t see. In the lobby of Crossroads Community Church, a friend approached him from behind, touched him on the shoulder, and told him he was glad to see him. But sudden terror gripped Sasser–cold sweats and nausea—he wanted to sink into the wall.
Kim describes life with him then as “walking on egg shells.” A loud noise, a sudden motion, and a nightmare of the attack triggered violent responses. Doctors diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Two years passed and with counseling, Sasser felt he was getting better and wanted to get back to work. He sought training at a diesel mechanics school in Pennsylvania. “I asked a few close friends what they thought, and they told me to pray about it.” He prayed, but rather than waiting on God to direct him, he went ahead and rented an apartment out of state to take the course.
“On my way from class to my apartment, I got lost,” he said. “I had a breakdown.” Only five miles from his destination but overcome with anxiety and crying, Sasser called Kim and a counselor at church. PTSD left him with nowhere to turn without God’s direction.
Today, the Sassers see a steady, albeit slow, recovery. He takes medication for his anxiety, and he has learned to do what God puts in front of him, mostly volunteering at church, working with troubled youth, and running the sound board for the youth band. He organizes youth and men for work crews to do yard work and odd jobs for shut-ins and widows. Recently, Sasser was able to use his experience to help a friend recover from a confrontation with an armed intruder.
As Sasser recounts the worst of his wounds, he describes the near-surgical precision in the random stabs: one to the arm cut a tendon but missed an artery. Another to the chest hit the sternum but missed the heart or a lung. One to the face hit less than an inch from an eye, and one to the neck just missed a major artery.
God was in control then, and He is now, Sasser said: “It helps to know God uses [the attack] to help me help someone else.”