Columbine High School, Nickel Mine Amish School, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Virginia Tech . . . tragedies that can never be erased from our collective memory. With each senseless tragedy, I remember my heart breaking. I mourned for the young ones whose lives ended far too soon. I grieved for the families, and I marveled at the heroes who freely gave their lives to save others. But even as I watched and grieved, it was always from a distance. Not now. With the terrible stabbings at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, PA on April 9th, the unthinkable came to my backyard.
My wife broke down in tears at the news. She graduated from Franklin, as did several close friends. Children of friends attend there now. Many of the kids in the youth ministry at Amplify Church are students at Franklin.
I struggled whether to write about the tragedy. Is it okay to articulate what so many of us feel deep inside? I find myself wondering what I can do to help prevent terrible incidents like this from happening again. I don’t know the alleged attacker. From all news accounts, he seemed like a normal kid from a normal middle-class “Ozzie and Harriet” type family. An article in one Pittsburgh newspaper stated that friends and family did not foresee this coming. The same article cited a Secret Service report from 1974 that found there is no set profile for a school attacker. Students differed from one another in numerous ways. It could be our friend, our child, the shy kid down the street.
A couple of years ago, the song, How to Save a Life, by The Fray came out that cut deep into my heart. The song is a true story about trying unsuccessfully to reach out to a boy in trouble. Lead singer, Isaac Slade, recounted in an interview that the boy's friends and family told him to "Quit taking drugs and cutting yourself or I won't talk to you again." All the boy needed was some support. He was losing friends and going through depression. He lost his best friend and could not deal with it.
Again, in the light of Franklin Regional High School, what can I do? I admire the faculty and students who showed their bravery and strength, their selflessness, in the face of unbelievable chaos and fear. What can I do now? How can I help? It’s not about more metal detectors or more security guards. It’s about reaching out to kids, as an individual, as churches, as communities. I’m talking about involvement--listening and accepting and loving and encouraging. I’m talking about taking the extra step and not waiting for someone else. There’s so many hurting people out there, especially the children. Perhaps all it takes is an ear or a smile to help save a life.