Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tragedy Writes Itself

We had a local school shooting this week. A seventeen-year-old teen opened fire in a school cafeteria and gunned down five students. Three of the boys who were life-flighted to the hospital have died. Two others are recovering. Had a brave teacher not chased the student out of the building--while being shot at--there may have been more fatalities. Soon after the teen fled the scene he sat alone on the side of the road waiting to be picked up by the police.

When I heard the local news, I burst into tears. As a parent, it's natural to fear that your child might experience something similar. And as a former teacher in a school district where drills were regular and necessary, I flashed back to the words code red, to locking the classroom door, and barricading the students beneath a table and away from windows.

In the aftermath of this tragedy there were dozens of TEEN interviews and I listened closely to the words and phrases those students used:

"It didn't feel real. It was like watching a movie."

"It sounded like firecrackers going off inside the building."

"I thought some kid had popped open a bag of chips."

"This is like a nightmare that you can't wake up from."

"I saw people running and screaming. But it didn't hit me until I heard the announcement that we were on lock down."

"He (the shooter) used to be a friend up until eighth grade. But then he went through a goth period and kept to himself."

"He (the shooter) was a nice kid. Very quiet. But you could always see sadness behind his eyes."

Tragedy is tragedy whether you're an adult or a teen. People go on auto-pilot until they can actually process what's going on. Some break down immediately but others require more time before it all sinks in.

And afterward we attempt to connect all the dots. But kids look to adults for how to handle things. What do they hearing us saying?

Here's some of what I heard from ADULTS: 

"That kid came from a broken home."

"He needs to fry for what he's done."

"Are we supposed to turn a blind eye and not judge him just because he had a horrible family life?"

"Maybe he was mentally unstable or depressed or bullied."

"Maybe all he needed was a friend."

What made this young man decide to ruin his life and the lives of others in THIS brutal way? What small actions could he and others have taken to help create a different outcome?

Totally makes me think of the book by Jay Asher called Thirteen Reasons Why. Small steps might make a difference. MIGHT.

So teach the child in your life to GIVE on a daily basis. A smile, a compliment, a helping hand, or their time. GIVING just might bridge the delicate line between life and death.

 And no, that 's not the complete answer. There are always others factors involved that make up the whole of a person (state of mind, mental health, family life, environment), BUT it's a start. And a start is all we've got.



Jonathon Arntson said...

Beautiful post, Christina.

I think your overall message about us needed to help each other out EVERY SINGLE DAY is what I have recently adopted as my religion.

As an educator, it's small steps like compliments and kudos. It's a quote on the board from someone related. It's meeting with your students to find out what's going on in their lives and how your class can help.

I will never pretend to understand what went through that boys head, but I do know that in some way he has also been a victim.

If anyone wants to prevent more of these pop-up tragedies, one needs only to follow *The Golden Rule*.

Matthew MacNish said...

We've got to reach out to each other. No one should have to suffer alone.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Oh My God, Christina, I can't believe you live there. So sorry for what you've gone through. What a tragedy. Great post on something so terrible that we wish we could always prevent from happening for the victims and the kid who does it, whose a victim too.

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Good post CHristina, one that really pulled at my heartstrings. This is every parents worst nightmare and living in a big city, small town or suburb . . . we all face the possibility of it happening to us now. I don't know what the answer to the problem is, but I agree with you. Ignoring it isn't right.

Christina Lee said...

Natalie, I live in a suburb of Cleveland. The shooting took place in Chardon, another outlying community near Cleveland.


Stina said...

Very wise words, Christina. So many have speculated what set him off. We might never know the truth. Due to a situation that I'm dealing with right now, and my kids have had to witness, I keep reminding them that we don't know what's going on in the person's life. They can't judge the individual based on what they see. There's so much more to the story that they don't know. And I'm hoping now that they've witnessed his mother's irrational behavior, they have more compassion for the boy.

Joanne said...

What a frightening and sad situation for everyone. I'm not sure what the answer might be, but I like your idea to give, in some small way, every day. Generosity of spirit matters.

storyqueen said...

I have no words.

My heart goes out to your community.


Kim Van Sickler said...

A great reminder. We need to be the best people we can be and remember to reach out to others. There have been soooo many times in my life when a small act of kindness has made my day. Stands to reason that we can all make a difference. And I see it all the time, it starts with adults and their reactions to people and situations in their lives. Trickle- down effect.

Christine Danek said...

Beautiful post. You words are true and powerful. It starts with the adults--the role models. I'm praying for your community.

Liz Mays said...

My heart just aches for those who were killed, injured, and affected. And my heart aches for the shooter as well because I can't even imagine the pain he must have felt to reach that point.

Jaime Morrow said...

As a former teacher I remember what it was like to go through the drills, the hiding under the windows with the door locked. Every time I felt sick inside hoping it would never be necessary. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this tragedy.

Another book that I read that deals with this very issue is Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. Like 13 Reasons Why it really drives home how seemingly little bits of meanness can sometimes pile up on someone. Not that this makes it justifiable, but it does serve an important reminder to reach out in big and small ways to people who have ended up on the fringes.

Christina Lee said...

Yess, Jaime, I had forgotten about that one!!!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Christina, I read about this on the news and cried. I cannot imagine how much worse it is to have it happen locally.

The quotes from adults are frightening. (Do they by any chance come from the public comments below articles?) What happens to adults to make them so HARD?

Yes, this was a horrible, violent act. But the teenage responses are human. And the adult responses are ... ICY COLD.

Who is the role model here?

Christina Lee said...

Dianne, no not on CNN (I haven't looked there at the comments)—just a conglomeration of local news stuff and Facebook, no direct quotes.

DL Hammons said...

No, its not a complete answer...but it is a start! You'd be surprised how easily the rest comes on its own afterwards!

Thank you for this post!

Emmy said...

Wow- this tragedy has hit me- but I can't even imagine what you who are local is going through.

And yes, it starts from day one teaching our kids kindness, compassion, to live by the golden rule. My 7-year-old recently came home from school saying one of his friends doesnt know the golden rule and that his mom told him to be mean to soneone if they are mean to you. Broke my heart for this kid- but filled my heart with oride for my son.
Tragedies still will happen and kids still always have a choice but I never want to look back and think I didn't try or if only I had taught them differently.

Maddy said...

I heard all about this school shooting. It's always shocking to read about this in the papers, but to know it happened right in your own backyard must be unbearable :( There's no excuse for what happened, but I do believe that a bit of kindness goes a long way. Who knows what was going through his mind when he did this, but I'm pretty sure, he could've used a friend, love and a bit of compassion.

Meredith said...

Such a horrible tragedy. I think you're right--small steps can help. And they're all we can do, so we have to try.

Lourie said...

Oh it just makes a rock in my stomach. And questions of why race through my mind. It scares me to death about my kids. I try to push those thoughts away, but they are real.

It's true though. Be kind. Listen. Love.


Peggy Eddleman said...

That's what everyone needs-- A START. Such a sad, sad story.

Sage Ravenwood said...

Beautifully stated sweet friend. Pointing a finger has never resolved the pain that comes in the aftermath. All we can do is watch our reactions. Kindness goes far in this world and compassion doesn't cost a thing. (Hugs)Indigo

P.S. Long after I read 'Thirteen Reasons Why', it still remains with me.

Sophia Chang said...

I have goosebumps all over my body after reading this - I'm so stunned.

And like Indigo, that book also remains and gives an instant punch whenever I think of it. You can't get those images and stories out of your mind.