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Fifth-grader dressed as Waffle House hero James Shaw Jr. Then the man himself appeared

Tayir Thomas chose to dress up as James Shaw Jr. for his fifth-grade class’s Hero Day because he wanted to dress as a real hero. Shaw tackled a gunman in a mass shooting in a Waffle House in Tennessee. Shaw surprised Thomas by coming to the school.
Tayir Thomas chose to dress up as James Shaw Jr. for his fifth-grade class’s Hero Day because he wanted to dress as a real hero. Shaw tackled a gunman in a mass shooting in a Waffle House in Tennessee. Shaw surprised Thomas by coming to the school. Facebook/Screenshot

When his school’s “Hero Day” came around, 10-year-old Tayir Thomas knew whom he wanted to be — and it wasn’t a caped crusader or Spandexed superhero.

Instead, he chose to dress as James Shaw Jr., who wrestled a gun away from a shooter who killed four people in an Antioch, Tennessee, Waffle House in April. Shaw, who had been in the bathroom when the shooting started, came out and grabbed the shooter’s gun, burning his palm, and flung it away, NPR reported.

“He is the hero here, and no doubt he saved many lives,” Metro Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said at the time, according to the site.

Shaw never considered himself a hero and raised more than $200,000 for the victims of the shooting.

“I showed him the news footage of James and said he really saved some people’s lives,” Tayir’s mother, Britt Thomas, said, according to Yahoo Lifestyle. “He said James was brave, and he asked if he could be like him.”

Thomas dressed up as Shaw by wearing a sweatshirt with the world “Live” written on it and wrapping his hand in a bandage. A widely circulated photo of Shaw shows him wearing the same outfit.

“He said he wanted to be a real hero not a fictional one,” Tayir’s mom said, according to WTVF.

“Today at school is Super Hero Day! I’m so glad my son has a local hero to admire,” Tayir’s mom wrote on Facebook.

Shaw found the post and shared it on his Instagram. “Truly honored and flattered to be the “Superhero” you dressed up as, you inspire me to keep inspiring,” he wrote.

Classmates at Tayir’s Gallatin, Tennessee, elementary school were a little puzzled at first.

“They had no idea who he was!” Thomas said, according to Yahoo Lifestyle. “Tayir said he had to explain, but he didn’t mind.”

But Tayir and his classmates were in for a surprise when the man himself showed up at Tayir’s school later in the week.

“I thought I was dreaming, but it wasn’t a dream,” Tayir said, according to WZTV. Tayir’s mom posted photos and video of the two meeting for the first time in the hall.

“I’m very inspired by him, very moved by him and thankful that he wanted to dress up like me,” Shaw said, according to WZTV. Shaw spoke to a few other classes and encouraged the kids to vote when they got older before taking his leave, the station reported.

The man who snatched an AR-15 rifle from a gunman at a busy Tennessee restaurant says his was an act of self-preservation and he doesn't consider himself a hero.

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