Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Never Prepared

As soon as I heard the words on the radio yesterday, “Another tragedy on a college campus,” I took a deep and somber sigh. The details that followed – lone gunman, in a classroom, shots fired, people dead or dying, the gunman fleeing – started running through my head in a continuous loop. How could this happen? Why did a person walk into a classroom with a gun? What could anyone have done to prevent this?

I have taught in a college classroom for years. I know the routine. Students come in, some excited, some quiet, some obviously wanting to be anywhere else... As an instructor, I am usually busy fiddling with the computer set up, getting my papers arranged, getting students’ papers ready to hand back. Would I even notice if a student not enrolled in my class walked in? And, if I did, what would I do and how would I handle it?

I have children in school. They get to their classroom, sometimes excited, sometimes quiet and wait for the class to begin. That one kid, the quiet, odd one comes in. He acts “weird,” but everyone has already accepted that. They ignore him. But something is not right that day. Something different. Could he pull out a gun and start shooting? And, if he did, what would my child do and could he or she be shot?

Questions like these are streaming through the minds of so many people today. The what-ifs, the if-only-I-had, the whys. How could something like this happen? In Oakland, this small, private Korean college is trying to cope and make sense of it all.

Some experts will say it is complex. Others will boil it down to a couple of basics, such as bullying or a proliferation of handguns. It is probably some giant mix of all of this. The bottom line is that we wonder how to prepare for something like this? Is preparedness even an option? As an educator and parent, I doubt that you would ever feel prepared.

The one thing we can think about it is that we cannot stop addressing issues of violence. Usually, people exhibiting this type of violence show signs in advance. We must find ways to open communication between ourselves to notice these signs and report when someone is showing signs of erratic or anti-social behavior. We need to feel empowered to say, “this isn’t right,” in ways that protect the reporter, but also handle the accused in productive and responsible ways.

While we can never prepare ourselves for this type of senseless violence, we can start talking, start noticing who is around us and take action. So, while we can never prepare ourselves to lose a loved one, especially in this way, we can start doing something today to maybe prevent it from happening in the future. See something? Say something. It may just save a life.

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