|Denver Rocky Mountain News|
People were quick to talk about the WHY, whether the blame lay in bad parenting or violent video games or intense bullying. It never seemed like much of a mystery to me, with our unformed frontal cortexes and hormonal surges, the anger and loneliness and grandiosity that hid behind our smiles on Picture Day. The next day, I returned to my high school with a certain amount of fear. It felt like anyone with access to weapons and a big enough grudge could storm the building and open fire.
I showed up in the school office, where I helped the secretary take attendance and filed paperwork for the vice principal. We usually talked during the 45 minutes we spent together each day, although in the wake of Columbine, our conversation centered on the tragedy that had taken place on the other side of the country. Almost 20 years later, I can still remember her words as she looked at me that morning. "There were BMWs in that parking lot," she said. As news helicopters had filmed students fleeing the building, her eyes had focused on the makes and models of cars the students had driven to school that morning. "There are BMWs in our parking lot," she continued. The peaceful, secure illusion of our affluent suburban town had shattered for her. If it could happen in Littleton, it could happen here.
I'll admit, I had several years of not following breaking news very closely. There have been incidents of violence and murder that have flown under my radar. Yet every school shooting, every child gunned down on a playground or in a classroom, the thought has resurfaced: that could happen here. Now that my own children are enrolled in our local public school, I watch the enhanced security measures that are put in place each year, the reinforced doors and student dismissal procedures, I hear about the "man with a gun" drill from my 6 year old, and I wonder how truly effective any of it is. Because THAT COULD HAPPEN HERE, is another lock enough to stop a person with a loaded gun and a mission?
I said my usual prayer this morning as I dropped my boys off at their school, as I watched the police cruiser in the parking lot and the children streaming into the building, dressed up for Picture Day. I prayed for their safety, for their teachers to be able to do their jobs in peace, for every child showing up at school that day to make it through the day unharmed. An hour later, I saw the story, reported by our local paper. It happened here.
Amid the confusion and the fear, there was that same sentiment that my high school secretary had expressed so many years ago, the shock that something like THAT could happen HERE. As though the price of your home or the designer labels inside your clothes can protect you, as though money can buy your family happiness and inoculate your children's minds from corruption, as though some invisible barrier exists around your zip code and protects you from human nature, from the very worst that we are capable of.
Today was a typical day for our little family, inside the walls of our home. But it was a very different story across town, on my Facebook feed, as parents held their children close and sirens and helicopters were heard outside. The danger is all too real for a new group of families, for another community, as questions swirl and peace of mind is long gone.