School Violence

It all starts with the pain

By Jenny Comeau
Dartmouth High School
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

My friend beside me had brought up the school shooting in Littleton. That morning, I had woken up to the end of a radio news broadcast which stated that the station would have details throughout the day about the murders. I rolled out of bed slightly confused, went downstairs, and sat down to hear the TV broadcaster announce a total of fifteen dead.

I had kept the radio on, and was putting my books in my book bag when I heard for the first time that two male students had gone into the school. I dropped my math text on the floor, staring at the radio, hoping it would tell me that the story wasn't real. I remember thinking, "I have twenty minutes until I go to school."

I think everyone knows the exact moment when they first heard the tragic news. It's one of those rare events which makes your body stop functioning out of pure disbelief. It's almost as if you're waiting to hear that this was all a joke - an overly cruel joke, but I think everyone would feel better nonetheless.

As I entered our school, all I could hear were mutterings and bits of conversation about the news. I don't think any of us really wanted to believe it. I know I looked around, and thought, "It could happen here." I also know that's an awful thing to say, and for the record, I really don't think anyone at our school would do it... at least, I pray that no one would.

I walked in a sort of trance the entire morning, wishing I was in Littleton, to be with the people. Frankly, I still do. Somehow I got through the morning - somewhat normally - and decided to go out to lunch. It was there that I learned some details.

My friend who had brought up the subject was the one to "fill me in." Thirteen students, a teacher, and the two murderers are all dead. The two boys had gone in with guns, bombs, and the intention to kill. She told me that she had heard they were especially targeting athletes and people of other races. She also told me that the day was rumoured to have something to do with Adolf Hitler's birthday. We talked about it for a few minutes, then she asked, "Do you think it could happen here?" I answered, "Yes." They looked at me in shock - I think they wanted to hear that it would never happen here, maybe as a comfort. Needless to say, we dropped the subject.

I went through the day, my head spinning with questions like:

  • "Why would someone do that?"
  • "How could they do it?"
  • "What drove them to kill?"
  • "How can you miss something like that?"
  • "How do you ignore, insult, and isolate someone so much that they would want to kill themselves and others?"

I watched tv the whole night, and most of my questions were answered. The killers were part of "The Trenchcoat Mafia"; they had been insulted or ignored by the other students; teachers had noticed that they were quiet, always sat at the back of the classroom; etc.etc. I'm sure you all know the details. Yet, no one can seem to answer my last question. How do we make others feel that low? One student who was a guest on Oprah said that everyone in the school knew who the members of the "Mafia" were, but the other students never really talked to them. It wasn't that the students were afraid of them; they just didn't associate with the group. We all have others who we don't particularly like -but where do we let that get to the point when it's a common idea to exclude a certain group?

I've also recently heard that the parents are being blamed because they didn't notice that their sons were making pipe bombs in their own houses. I'll admit, that's a pretty hard thing to miss, but why are the parents being blamed? It's not as though they gave their sons the "okay", or helped them. But regardless of that idea, I have another question: Shouldn't someone have noticed something was terribly wrong with these boys BEFORE they made the bombs? Or got the guns? Or drew the prints? Or kept the diaries? It's not as though they woke up that horrific day and decided to end lives. This took months of planning - that's a lot of time to ignore someone.

As I was flipping through the channels that night, I heard a man say that this is just an example of their generation. I wish I had caught his name. I would love to write him a letter saying, "Guess what? We're not all murderers."

Over the past week, I have probably watched over 24 hours of shows concerning the massacre. And I'm still shocked. Yesterday I heard that they had planned to blow up the entire school, killing everyone. Also, they had wanted to get on a plane to New York, and crash it, killing the passengers, as well as N.Y.C. civilians. Actually, I have heard a huge amount, and honestly I really don't know what is true. This is why I'm writing an editorial instead of a news story. I really don't have the right to fill you all in on the details. But, I do feel that the subject is serious enough to be discussed and dealt with. Quite frankly, I don't think we've done enough to acknowledge it.

By Monday after the shootings, I didn't hear the whispers anymore. My question is "Why?" I know it's a hard subject to deal with. I know that we don't want to think about it. But we should - no, we have to. Otherwise, it will repeat itself. In fact, it already has. This is an epidemic and it has moved on to our "home land". There was another shooting, this time in Alberta. We all joke that Americans play with guns, but now we do too. Is that how we want this country to be? Ignore each other until someone loses it, kills himself and others; talk about it for a few days; then leave it alone because it's a tough subject? Maybe everyone has learned a lesson, right? Wrong!

We simply can't keep doing this. We have to talk, and deal, and hopefully solve this insanity. It starts with each of us. All of these gruelling situations have started with a lack of human communication, and that's where we all can start. I'm not saying this is going to solve the world, but at least we can stop it from happening here. We CAN stop it from happening here.

I don't know about all of you, but I'm scared, and I don't want to live in fear of this. We don't have to. It just takes some sensitivity, and a willingness to help. Right now, if there is any one of you who I have EVER hurt, if I have caused anyone the slightest bit of pain, I'm sorry. It all starts with the pain. And it ends with...

Anyone reading this who would like to discuss this issue, and maybe even DO something about it, please get in touch with me. We can change this.