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Priest found 'amazing grace' in Opelika bombing

OPELIKA (AP) — Eleven years after a package bomb exploded in his hands, an Episcopal priest remembers the blast at his Opelika home — a crime still unsolved — as a moment of both pain and “amazing grace.”

The Rev. Mike Schnatterly, now living in South Carolina, had spotted a box on his Ford Mustang as he stepped onto the carport, still in his bathrobe, on New Year’s Day 1996. When he picked up the box, a bomb inside exploded, knocking him over his wife’s car. Debris was found 100 yards away.

Schnatterly survived, suffering a broken wrist, broken finger and injuries to his chest and face. His wife and two children were in the house and not harmed.

“While it was a terrible moment, it was also a moment of amazing grace that I felt there and that is something I never want to forget,” Schnatterly told the Opelika-Auburn News in a story on the latest anniversary of the bombing. “Still when I get deliveries, I look at them very cautiously.”

He voiced similar feelings days after the blast when he left the hospital and spoke with reporters at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Opelika, where he was rector.

“It was purely the grace of God that I’m standing here and that I’m no more injured than I am,” he said at the time.

Schnatterly, now 51, had been curate at Christ’s Church in St. Michaels Parish in Maryland before moving to Opelika, and federal agents at one point investigated a possible connection between the bomb and the Eastern Shore. There was also speculation that the bomb had been placed at the wrong Opelika house.

Schnatterly told the newspaper he is not aware of any resolution to the case.

“My memory of the whole experience was of the support and love of the community there at Emmanuel Church and within the Auburn-Opelika area that made the healing possible,” he said.

Now rector at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Greer, S.C., he said his wife and two sons are fine.

“This is actually coming home for me,” he said. “I graduated from high school over in Greenville, and went to Furman University. My mother is still in the area. We are settled in and very content here.”

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Information from: Opelika-Auburn News

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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