Thursday, February 22, 2018


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Not long after Nancy and I watched the initial news reports about awful events at Parkland High School, I took our dogs, Ranger and Katt, for their evening walk. I went a bit earlier than I normally do, hoping to inject a bit of sunshine into what had become another day of senseless American mayhem. It worked for a while, until we passed by Walnut School. The building was empty. As I made my way past the dumpster in the parking lot, a surge of grief and rage swept over me. I turned and leaned over the dumpster, sobbing in despair as I did. It was my silent plea for the madness to end.

Before I took Ranger and Katt for their walk the next morning, I read that the death toll seems to be capped at 17. Seventeen! That’s the same number of combat deaths our military suffered in Afghanistan during all of 2017. Now, one should reasonably expect  casualties in a war, but it’s absolutely insane to think that an American school would become, in essence, a war zone where the body count is worse than a “real” war. Yet, since the 1990’s it’s happened over and over and over.  It’s almost impossible to grasp.

We took the same route we did the night before  By the time we got to Walnut School, children were beginning to arrive.  Ranger, our Sheltie, was, as he always is, in his element. He absolutely adores children. He’ll sit in front of them and whimper a bit, a signal that he wants to shower them with affection. Sometimes he fidgets, then holds up one of his front paws. It’s his way of asking, “Can we be friends; I’d really like that.? Let’s shake on it.” The kids love it. Katt just stands quietly, allowing Ranger to take center stage. It’s not that she doesn’t like kids. She’s a bit shy and it takes time for her to warm up to them.

As Ranger and Katt went through their paces, I just observed. One thing I always find amusing is the backpacks the kids tote. They’re bigger than the kids, so big in fact that it sometimes appears to me that the backpacks are toting the kids, not the other way around. The more I think about, the more I sense that those backpacks aren’t so amusing. They just may be symbols for the enormous burdens being placed on kids these days. Not only do they have to worry about their school work, they’ve now got to worry about their safety and whether or not one of their classmates is hatching another diabolical scheme. I’m sure their parents are also worrying as they send them off to school with a hug or kiss.

There’s so much that’s frightening about these senseless acts of terror. The perpetrators always seem able to marshal powerful weapons. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, who were about 18 when they went on their rampage in Columbine in 1999, used a 9MM carbine, a 12 gauge pump shotgun, and a 9MM pistol with high capacity magazines. Adam Lanza used a high powered Bushmaster when he killed 26 people at Sandy Hook in 2012. In 1997, Luke Woodham was only 16 when he bludgeoned and stabbed his mother to death in the morning, then took a rifle and 45 caliber pistol to his high school in Pearl, Mississippi where he killed 2 of his fellow students and wounded 7 others. Yesterday, 19 year old Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15 to kill 17 at Parkland High School. While the weapons used in the attacks were frightening, it was far more blood curdling to realize that, in each of these cases,  it was kids, not deranged adults,  who were killing classmates, teachers, administrators, and even their parents

I thought about that as I was leaving Walnut School that morning. I saw a couple of older boys walking toward the school. They looked like normal kids, but in the light of all that’s happened in America since the 1990’s, I found myself wondering, “Is one of these boys the coiled spring of anger and despair, ready to snap over some perceived grievance?” I offered a silent prayer for them as I made my way back home.

As I said, I have no solutions to offer. More vigorous background checks and restrictions on high powered weapons, consistent with the Second Amendment, seem reasonable to me. I don’t find that difficult because I don’t own a weapon, unless you consider my “flame tempered” Louisville Slugger (Kirby Puckett model) a weapon.  I have friends who I’m sure would strongly disagree with me.

So, I’m left with the same old solutions, which aren’t being accepted. All I’m left with in the end is my plea for the madness to end!

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