I started out writing a very different post yesterday.
Before yesterday, if anyone asked where I was from, I would say Wisconsin, never bothering to mention the city, because before yesterday you wouldn’t have known where it was unless you lived there.
Yesterday, a young boy in Marinette, Wisconsin took a classroom of 23 students and one teacher hostage.
I wasn’t there and I don’t live there anymore, so I can’t speak to that.
From the reports I’ve read and talking with family and friends the unnamed boy took a Western Civ. class hostage during 6th hour. The teacher told her 7th hour students there wasn’t any class and sent them to the library. When school ended she was able to notify the principal, who contacted the police. At one point, the boy released five students, possibly to go to the bathroom. The police were outside the classroom door when they heard shots fired. Police entered the room, and it sounds like the boy turned the weapon on himself when he saw the police approaching. None of the reports indicate that the boy tried to harm anyone or fired his weapon on anyone besides himself. He was taken to the hospital and his condition is currently unknown. He has been reported to be a good kid, well liked, and never been in any kind of trouble before. But yesterday he brought two guns to school.
One saving grace may be that just last year faculty and law enforcement took part in a training exercise involving a mock-shooter, and in this manner our small community was not completely unprepared to handle such a situation. Teachers have always been my heroes, and now, more so. Another stroke of luck may be that the incident didn’t take place until the end of the school day, that the situation was contained to one classroom, and that most of the school, unaware of the danger, was left to follow their natural evacuation patterns without causing chaos or panic.
I remember being in that classroom, with my own Western Civ. teacher, when we heard about Kip Kinkle, another 15 year old who brought guns into a school, an incident that ended so tragically different. My teacher is no longer there, nor I, but I can still picture his desk off to the left side, in front of the chalk board, a TV on a rolling cart in corner, and rows of desks facing the windows on the outside wall where the projection screen was pulled down. Depending on the season, there was either snow or grass covering the field outside, and the creek, alternately frozen silent or babbling softly. The ground floor rooms always seemed very make-shift to me. While upstairs math and science classrooms were connected by cold, cinderblock walls, the downstairs walls seemed to be no more than thick cardboard, and not more than an inch, if that. I don’t know what it would take to stop a bullet, but I can see so vividly, those three giant pieces of cardboard that so thinly protected the students on either side. Sounds of history and English and French often intermingled. I shudder, remembering that I once saw one of those very walls be blown down in the hallway on a hot and windy day, and quickly popped back into place as if it had never happened. Back then, I was concerned that these walls would not protect us against a tornado, and just the same I imagine how those walls stood tall yesterday, separating one classroom from safety, and another from imminent danger.
The announcement of Kip Kinkle’s shooting spree came just a year before the tragedy in Columbine. I stood there with my teacher, both of us wondering how such a thing could happen, what would motivate a child, or anyone, to do such a thing. Neither of us had any answers, there weren’t any words to say. It was unimaginable and foreign and far away. It didn’t seem like a thing that could happen anywhere. Now, it seems even less real that it could happen in the very same room where I stood a little over a decade ago. Now it seems like something all too close. And the reality is that it can happen anywhere, in the classroom where I sat, at the school I went to, a mile from the home I grew up in, and where my parents still live. Some of my teachers are still there, some of my classmates now teach there, some of my classmates have joined the law enforcement that helped to control this situation and bring it to an end. Many of my friends still live there. Everyone knows someone who goes to school there or works at the school. Everyone knows everyone. If you didn’t know someone who was in that classroom yesterday, you know someone who could have been.
We don’t have any answers right now about why a young boy who had reportedly never been in trouble, was a good student, and well-liked would do such a thing. Hopefully this boy will be ok and get the kind of help he needs. I would like to reach out to anybody out there who feels desperate or alone and let you know that you aren’t alone and that there are people who can help you, no matter how desperate the situation may seem. Please talk to someone; it’s ok to ask for help.
*If you have a family member or friend you are concerned about, have considered suicide yourself, feel alone or hopeless, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.*
- Call for yourself or someone you care about
- Free and confidential
- A network of more than 140 crisis centers nationwide
- Available 24/7
My thoughts and prayers are with all those involved, along with their family and friends.