The theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado, top a long list of senseless shootings that plague society. As each incident unfolds I recall an experience, I would rather forget. My second year of teaching in a high crime area began with a gun pointed at my head. Driving home from school one day I saw a young man flagging me down. I quickly scanned his surroundings and noticed a crashed car. That no other car was in sight gave me reason to pause. As I slowly approached, he aimed a large gun at me from the passenger’s side of my car. Our eyes met and I remember telling God I had too much to do – asking him to let me live. Though the gunman appeared to shoot, he never fired and I sped on toward the large crowd of onlookers gathered several blocks away.
At only eighteen, he tried to kill his girlfriend and her mother. He wrecked his car fleeing and was trying to carjack another – something he couldn’t achieve with the driver of the car he crashed into who fled as he was shot at. The newspaper revealed shots were fired at other passing cars. Why he didn’t shoot at me, I’ll never know. I was “blessed” that day, something many of the Aurora survivors have recounted of their horrific experience.
There are far too many similar incidents – Tuscan, Fort Hood, Birmingham, Omaha, Virginia Tech… As teachers, we know that perpetrators of such crimes may be any of the students we taught over the years. There are always the questions – once innocent children, students – at what point does their life change? What signs might we have seen in the time spent with them? Is there anything we might have done to redirect their path?
The victims – also someone’s child, someone’s student. Finding their way. Becoming who they are meant to be. Again the questions – why? In the wrong place at the wrong time? A victim of time and circumstance? How did we influence their paths toward becoming well-intentioned, effective members of society?
At times like these there may be no answers to the questions. Let us hold all involved in such tragic events in our thoughts and prayers – the ripple effects reach far and wide. Each involved has or had a life story to tell and any of us may have shared in it.