When School Violence Hits Close to Home...
School Shootings expand to churches and malls...
I have spent several years now working on a novel about life after a school shooting. It was an idea that began with the events of Columbine, but lay somewhere forgotten in the back of my brain until the events of Virginia Tech woke it up again. No there are no easy answers... only more questions.
Before I could do the topic justice I felt I must do all I could to understand the people who commit school shootings. I immersed myself in studying whatever I could about these boys who go on rampages. I never really thought it would hit close to home.
After it happened, I already had a strong feeling they would discover something about the kid that was not made public at first. A history of anti-depressants. Every single one of the spree killers I have studied in the past months was on some kind of anti-depressant. A few days after the fact this suspicion was confirmed.
Is it just more proof that these kids had serious emotional problems, or is it the fact that we are hand feeding these kids pills like candy? Is it the drugs that are leading to the emotional problems or the emotional problems that are leading to the drugs?
Maybe we are expecting some magic pill, something that will take away all of our troubles as parents, make everything okay.
I was put on Prozac when I was 16, I spent the next fifteen years off and on anti-depressants in various forms. For a time, they made my life manageable, they made the stress seem less important, until I finally realized why they worked. They made me feel NOTHING. I was able to go through life like a robot, nothing hurt, but nothing felt good either. Life was just one huge... flat... line...
They do work for some people, but what if a person already had a violent streak? What if they were not just suicidal, but homicidal? Is feeling nothing really a good thing?
I still remember being a teenager, and now as I face being the mother of a teenager I remember that pain and confusion well. All of these emotions, shifting like the wind. One minute you are laughing, the next you are crying and you have no idea WHY.
All of us felt that way didn't we? Hasn't teen angst existed since the beginning of time? Maybe it's all just a normal and natural part of growing up, and some of us... those who have been abused, neglected, molested, or otherwise damaged... maybe we needed a little extra help.
As a parent, we can choose the easy way out, ignore it, throw a handful of pills at it, and make our own lives easier... or... we can talk to our kids. We can be there for them, and sometimes even make our own lives uncomfortable to get them the help they need. We can listen to them, and hear what they are saying...
I don't have the answers more than anyone else does. I am thankful my cousin is home safe with her family. I mourn for a family I have never met, who lost not one but two daughters. It left a father laying in the hospital with a gunshot wound of his own... a mother out there somewhere with thousands of questions and not a single answer.
One thing I do know... is that we remember Kip Kinkle, Eric Harris, Jeff Weise, and now Matthew Murray.. The media made sure we remembered, day after day they focused on the killers. and I wonder why they were even the focus at all.
In some cultures, their very names would have been removed from all record. They would have ceased to exist. Instead we would remember only those who lost their lives, those who were left behind to pick up the pieces.
We would remember the victims... Who were they? What were their names? If the media is going to imprint something on our brains, how about the fact that the victims weren't just a smiling school photo, a name that means nothing.
Instead of celebrating the life that was lost, why must the media choose to celebrate the crime that took that life?
These kids wanted a way to go from being nobodies to being famous over night, and they found it. Shortly after the shootings I heard a woman on the news saying that it was the culture of violence that was causing this.
Television, the Internet, Video Games... blah, blah, blah, next comes gun control, and we will dance around the issues pointing fingers here and there and everywhere. We've done it all before, and we have learned nothing.
I have made a strong point not to isolate one factor over the others, in all of my research I have discovered that school shooters do not come from the addition of a single ingredient. There is a recipe, and many factors are present in each of these boys, not just one that pushed them over the edge.
If I had to choose one single factor above all others it would not be guns, and it would not be violence in the media. I do believe the media has a great deal of responsibility in another way through.
All the while somewhere out there another young boy was watching the media circus. Watching as another nobodies name was being broadcast across the airwaves. He heard a nobody become somebody, and in his head he thought... "They'll remember his name, and they'll remember mine too."
When they continue to portray the killers as the victims. When they show us their faces over and over ans turn them into anti-heroes. When they focus on the actions and not the consequences. They continue to create copycats.
*This is part of a research project for a fictional novel about a school shooting. Herein lie my conclusions for what they are worth. Backed up by years of research. I'd like to hear your opinions.
The New Life Church Shooting
On Dec 9, 2007 it came far too close for comfort. My Aunt had attended New Life Church since it opened it's doors. Her children grew up in this church. With almost 10,000 members it's something most of us can't even imagine.
When her daughter asked if she could stay for the late service, my Aunt said yes. My Aunt and Uncle ran their errands for the morning and returned to the church to pick her up. They pulled into the parking lot and called her on the cell phone to tell her they were waiting for her at one of the entrances to the church.
At some point a smoke bomb went off and people were standing around confused. My Uncle went over and threw snow on it to put it out. My sixteen year old cousin walked out the door of the church, got in the car and they were leaving the parking lot when a phone call came from inside of the church.
Shots fired... Two young girls lay dead, the gunman stopped by an armed security guard, in the end dying of a self inflicted gunshot wound.
My aunt can't get the picture out of her head. Her baby girl walking out of the building on one side of the church, at the same time the shooting began on the other.
One of the victims shared the same name as her precious child, and was very nearly the same age. When it was all over, one lay dead and the other went home to safety and all it took was her parents decision to use another entrance.
As a parent the loss of an innocent life makes your heart bleed, I feel it each time I hear about a tragedy such as this. Over and over it happens... the news doesn't even cover it in depth anymore. Columbine was months of press coverage, Virginia Tech was days. A Church somewhere north of me barely registered at all.
So many innocent lives lost that instead of shock, now we find ourselves saying only two this time, Thank God only two... Two beautiful girls losing their lives in the one place they were supposed to be safe.
It isn't just schools anymore. It has spread to malls, and even churches. So much anger. So much hatred. What are we missing? So many questions, so few answers.
I don't ask why anymore, not why did he do it, we already know don't we? We already knew he would be an outcast, we already knew he was just another angry kid who in days past would have taken his own life... we already knew he would quote Eric Harris... we knew because it as different as they are there are too many similarities to discount.
I call them my lost boys. Nobody knows why. I have collected the stories of many lost boys over the years, not just school shooters either. There is also the story of Chris McCandless who became lost in a very different way than the school shooters we have come to know over the past 15 years or so. Chris McCandless pulled away from society in a very different way. He did not murder other people, he did not set out to destroy himself either.