*February 15, 2018–Yesterday, a young man walked into a high school in Parkland, Florida and shot 17 people. Since I first wrote the angry piece below, there have been 162 school related shootings in the United States. Incidents from a pellet gun aimed at a passing school bus to the unthinkable massacre of 20 first-grade children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary. I’ve not included the mass shootings which happened outside of schools–and there have been many. Clearly, no one has done anything to prevent these senseless tragedies from happening, nor do they seem to care.
It’s not an accident that on days like today, the newspaper is folded in a particular way when I slide it from its clear bag. The “Currents-Health” section is strategically viewed first, along with the latest piece on “Portion Patrol.” But the largest article on the page, “A sense of urgency” seems vague so I’m forced to flip it over to find information that will help me know if my indigestion is bad enough to seek assistance at the ER. This is where the publisher’s strategy of trying to cover up the main page headlines fails, because now I can see them. And even though I knew they’d be there today, they are sobering. How can they not be? And how can I not read what’s written there regardless of how sad and angry it makes me?
Quite a long time ago, our local paper ran a dramatic and now famous photograph on its front page of a fireman carrying a small child from the rubble of a building destroyed by a monster. So many people complained about the inappropriateness of that photo being the first thing they saw that morning when they opened the paper, that now, sensitive material is always buried behind another section. Or tastefully covered, so that it can be avoided, or perhaps made more palatable after readers have had the opportunity to peruse something far more important about how granola “hangs with bad calories,” or whether that fart stuck crosswise is worth seeing a doctor about.
What is wrong with people?
I understand that it may be a whole different tragedy if their morning is disturbed by the unexpected and horrific events in others’ lives, but calling the paper about it to complain? Really? They could just step away from the paper in the morning. Leave it in the driveway and back over it with their car for a few days. Do something–anything constructive instead of crudely advertising that they don’t have a heart or soul, and that whatever distress the news causes them, to realize their consternation can’t approach the magnitude of grief real victims suffer from.
I tried to watch a bit of Fox News this morning, but had to steel myself. A reporter named Megan was interrogating a young man about the incident that took place in his German class yesterday at VA Tech. Although I marveled at his incredible calmness and ability to handle the reporter’s questions after such an ordeal, I was distracted by her piranha-like and generally offensive behavior. Her questions, choice of words, and whole manner of being were completely inappropriate. In reference to the young man’s description of having to turn desks over for cover to be safe, the reporter used his statement to construct her next question: “So when you were cowering behind the desk, did you think about trying to get at the gun man?”
Yes, she used the word cowering. Even more disturbing was the music someone at Fox chose to accompany the photos of the melee each time the anchor took over and segued to a commercial break. I think the choice was supposed to in some way soften the horror of the tragedy. Silence would have been far more appropriate.
Reference made about whether safety procedures were in place, or not in place at VA Tech and discussed last night on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country quickly ran to questions and accusations of negligence and lack of preparedness. Voice levels were elevated and indignation had set in. On another channel, someone had already contacted an “expert” on firearms, and was trudging down the worn path of whether gun control laws should be changed or not. I cringed when one of the speakers made a point that “not another person in the classroom had a gun.” Thankfully another speaker cautioned that lots of people having guns would not prevent a tragedy like this one from happening.
I’m left thinking about the man who was simply trying to teach German, young people who were going to sleep in on a cold Monday morning, but didn’t, or the man who survived the Holocaust to fall victim to this senseless act. I’m thinking of parents who still aren’t sure if their children are safe or not, and about the young man from Korea who caused the whole thing. I’m thinking about his parents, too, and wondering how any parent would feel after finding out their child had done this. Wondering how someone couldn’t have known.
In this case, it already seems to be more a problem that no one really knew the shooter. A young man who attended local schools for years, and who was nearing the end of his college work. He had to have left something in writing that someone saw, and would question, and would refer to someone for help.
“Student alarmed instructors, fellow students
Instructors, meanwhile, said [the shooter’s] creative writing was so disturbing that he was referred to the school’s counseling service.
Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the university’s English department, said she did not personally know the gunman. But she said she spoke with Lucinda Roy, the department’s director of creative writing, who had [him] in one of her classes and described him as “troubled”.
Rude told The Associated Press that he was referred to the counseling service, but she said she did not know when or what the outcome was. Rude refused to release any of his writings or his grades, citing privacy laws.
Fellow students in a playwriting class with [the shooter] described his plays as dark and disturbing.
His writing, the plays, were really morbid and grotesque, Stephanie Derry, a senior English major, told the campus newspaper, The Collegiate Times.
I remember one of them very well. It was about a son who hated his stepfather. In the play, the boy threw a chainsaw around and hammers at him. But the play ended with the boy violently suffocating the father with a Rice Krispy treat, Derry said.
Derry said [the shooter’s] classmates could only make jokes about [his work] because [he] was just so fictional, so surreal.
“I kept having to tell myself there is no way we could have known this was coming,” she told the newspaper. “I was just so frustrated that we saw all the signs but never thought this could happen.”
This was a young man who was able to walk into a shop that sells guns, buy more than one, and use them.
It will be on the news, on the Internet, in the paper, and in discussions for weeks. And through it all, ratings will soar, and awards will be given to those who worked hard to bring us the story, but no one will really be able to help anyone understand why things like this happen, or do anything truly constructive to help people prevent something like it from happening again.