ON A PERSONAL NOTE/By Maramis
There was a major blooper in my column last week, but thank goodness it was only the very last paragraph, everything following the stars (*****). I apologize and hope you all forgive me.
Many years ago, I was told that people aren’t interested in good news; that bad news, shocking news, sells. And unfortunately, while it may be good for newspaper sales, it’s really not good for all those people who have to read about what just happened to their families.
There is plenty of bad news to go around, and sad to say, there may never be a shortage of that. Whatever it is that makes people flock to reading about the bad news may be the shock value or the fact that they can now show their friends that, “See! I told you this would happen!”
One of the things that we hear very often, and again, we heard just today, November 30, 2021, is, “My heart goes out to… [the families enduring the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one,]” as spoken by the president upon hearing about the shooting at a Michigan County high school in which the shooter, a 15-year-old sophomore at that Oxford High School, killed three of the students — aged 14, 16, and 17 — then he added, “That whole community has to be in a state of shock right now.”
I’m certainly not disagreeing with the president, but I’m reflecting on how many times we’ve heard some version of those very words over the past many years…
Like when people need help to prevent such things from happening again and again, and yet they never can seem to get the right kind of help to keep students safe in their schools, as any listing of such shootings will show us. It seems that no school is safe and parents worry about if or when their own children will get caught up in such a situation. Yet those who willfully, knowingly, and intentionally bring a weapon to school — usually a firearm of some kind — have killing on their minds and in their hearts. At that point, it would be unlikely to change the student’s mind, even if such an opportunity would present itself.
It’s not that some schools suffer more than other schools; we know that there is much suffering in all those schools in all the towns
that have suffered school shootings, leaving many dead, from students to teachers, to those who try to intervene, to say nothing of all the parents that have lost their children and are still grieving for them years later; and their friends and neighbors, who may never look at life the same way again.
And as though school shootings aren’t bad enough — and I’ve read through hundreds of them — not only did the shooters kill their
targeted victims, they killed anyone in their way, depending on where they were, from other students to teachers, to the police and more.
Back in 2007, at Virginia Tech, a 23-year-old student, Seung-Hui Cho, armed with two pistols, a Glock 19 and a Walther P22, killed
thirty-two students and faculty members and wounded another seventeen students and faculty members in two separate attacks before committing suicide. The first attack was on the second floor of West Ambler Johnston Hall, where he shot a young girl and another student who came to help. He then changed his clothes, recorded multiple videos stating that he “had to do it for his brothers and sisters.” He then chained the doors of Norris Hall shut and shot and killed thirty more students and staff. He also shot seventeen more students and staff. Six more students were also wounded from non-gunshot injuries. This person was described as extremely quiet and lonely, a description that seems to show up rather frequently. While we may think that these details don’t matter, during the rampage, he wore a black T-shirt, a russet vest, a backward baseball cap, black military cargo pants, black boots, and grip gloves. This incident is listed as the third deadliest shooting by a lone gunman, and the deadliest school shooting in modern U.S. history.
No parent can be said to grieve the most or even more than others. Grieving is a personal thing and it shows up in many different ways. I’m saddened by another school shooting today and more loss of life. But you can be sure that Biden’s heart goes out to those who are grieving.
So what can be done? If they going to have weapon detectors, enforce that every child, no matter how young, must go through it. (There were children in that list I read where a child as young as 5 brought a weapon to school to show it off to his friends and the weapon accidentally went off.) Maybe that can be done. It’s cheaper than losing lives and worth the “inconvenience” since we are living in times like these. Most children by now understand the craziness that can happen in a student’s mind and need to be educated to bring any strange, bizarre, or unusual behavior to the attention of someone who cares and can do something about it.
Parents can sometimes help, and school counselors of course. But the important thing is to recognize the behavior and see what you can do to help. Not being cold and aloof to your would-be friends, making a person who already feels alone and withdrawn to get to that point of losing it, can also help.
What else can be done? Private counseling for any student who needs help. Don’t pooh-pooh the student as though it’s not your
responsibility. Then whose is it? Go to the parents. Take the student out for a soda or a long walk. DO SOMETHING. The students are getting younger and younger, both the killers and the victims. Think about this. If not weapons detectors, maybe starting school earlier to do backpack searches.
Nobody likes to be inconvenienced. People who would never think of using a weapon on their classmates may just feel it’s a waste of good time… until they become the victims.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.