As I sit down to write this, I don't even know where to begin. My thoughts are all over the map, and my emotions switch from heart-wrenching sadness to anger to helplessness and back to sadness again.
This is a picture of the house that I grew up in in rural Chardon, Ohio on Bean Road. My street was a dirt road until about 10 years ago. Corn was grown on the corner lot, 4 houses down. On the other side was a cow farm (which is now a fancy development). Where I grew up, we played kick the can, ghost in the graveyard, and rode quads in the back yard. All the kids on my street knew each other, and we all played together. My first love, WH, grew up down the street. When I think of my small town, I think of a small, proud community. Everyone knows everyone. I used to think that this was the curse of living in a small town, and now I know it is a blessing. Why? Because the entire community has banded together as one force to fight through an immensely difficult time in all of our lives. No one will ever forget this. Those who lost their lives, and those who were injured, the heroes who saved others' lives, will never be forgotten in my small hometown.
In 1999, when the Columbine High School massacre occurred, I was in 9th grade. I could never have imagined that I would ever be able to relate to the people who were forever affected by that awful tragedy. I thought that I felt remorse for those it affected, but now I KNOW the remorse that one feels when your hometown has been savagely raped of its innocence. There are two dead children from my hometown now, and families that may never find peace as a result. Their friends, cousins, grandparents, teachers, coaches, will forever remember the memories of their short lives. May you rest in peace Danny Parmertor and Russel King. May the heavens above keep the other children who are fighting for their lives safe.***
***[I am saddened to have to make this change, but since I wrote this, another child, Demetrius Hewlin has died. May he too rest in peace.]
Everyone naturally wants to blame someone when things like this happen: "he was bullied" "he was goth" "it's the video games, tv" "it's his parents' fault" "it's the administration's fault" "guns kill people" "he posted a poem on facebook that said he was going to do it." Regardless of the infinite avenues of blame we can take, there is one person at fault, and that is the one who pulled the trigger. And even then, I feel deep sadness for this child who thought that his only option was to murder his classmates. So many kids are bullied, it's a part of growing up. I was bullied, and I never once thought that the solution would be to kill my classmates. That child who brought a gun into school and killed people is still alive, and he will have to face the consequences of his actions every single day he breathes on this earth.
Everyone involved in this tragedy will suffer to some extent. In the midst of the great sadness I feel for my small hometown, I feel a great sense of pride. I am most proud to know that the teachers at the high school I went to fought the shooter: one chased him out of the school, another dragged an injured student out of harm's way into another classroom. I am proud that our small-town police and fire department handled the situation rapidly, minimizing death and injury. I am proud that the entire town has banded together to grieve and mourn together. I am proud that support all over the world is being shown (according to Facebook, there are over 30,000 people internationally intend to wear red today in support.) In the midst of heart-breaking sadness, I am proud to be from Chardon.
We will all get through this, together. We are, ONE HEARTBEAT.