There were four school-related shooting in the U.S. during the past week. Four in one week. They took place in Baton Rouge, LA on Friday, February 8, Memphis, TN on Monday, Oxnard, CA on Tuesday, and DeKalb, IL on Thursday.
All of these situations are tragic and senseless. As a principal, I am responsible for the safety of 530 children and 55 adults, and this is one of my biggest nightmares. I can't even imagine what would bring a person to the point in his life where the only way to escape his demons would be to start shooting in a school filled with innocent children. As horrific as all of these incidents are, the one that hit me like a runaway train locomotive is the Valentines Day murders at Northern Illinois University. Six dead, at least 16 injured - all innocent young people just beginning their adventure into the adult world.
I am an alumnus of NIU, having attended college there from 1981-1985. I earned my elementary education degree from Northern, and it has served me well. Some of my life's most wonderful memories are of my days in DeKalb, and I am still close with many of my college buddies, one of whom introduced me to my wife, Sally.
I am truly haunted by this nightmare come true, and I can't stop thinking about it. There are so many school shootings each year, but they always seem so far away from my little corner of the world. Yet, on Thursday, my precious memories of days playing Frisbee outside the NIU Student Center, or riding my bike from building to building, or sitting in large lecture halls just like the one in Cole Hall, collided with the cold, harsh reality that we are never really safe; that there are people out there with guns who have no regard for human life.
And why was it so easy for this murderer to get the guns? He purchased all of them in Champaign, Illinois from a gun dealer with a gun shop behind his house. He purchased extra ammunition and a holster from the same internet site that sold weapons to the Virginia Tech gunman. Will we ever learn? What does the NRA have to say now? All of this leads to another question for me. That is, do we really still have the right (or the need) to "bear arms" in this country? I am having a very difficult time rationalizing that part of our beloved Constitution (see Amendment II of the Bill of Rights).
So now what? As I sit at my computer taking advantage of one of the basic freedoms guaranteed to me as an American citizen, I wonder if Steven Kazmierczak felt the same freedom to exercise his rights as a citizen. How do I come to grips with this?
My heart and soul go out to all of the victims of this senseless, terrible tragedy.