As I begin to write about the Latest School Shooting — which, on Valentine’s Day took the lives of 17 students and staff — I realize something.
I just don’t know what to say anymore.
When Columbine happened on April 20, 1999, it shook me — and everyone else — to the core. But given the newness, there was plenty to say.
Until then, mass shootings, while always startling, tended not to have a common thread. Except, perhaps, for “going postal.”
They certainly didn’t happen in safe places like schools, places like Columbine.
So when two shooters attacked their high school, killing 13 before dying themselves, I remember how we all tried to wrap our brains around what had occurred. In wrestling with the toughest of questions, this newspaper even scheduled “Community Conversations” about Columbine.
While there were some answers, what I remember is even more questions. Questions that have continued throughout a series of other school shootings.
I’m not going to try to put a number on how many there actually have been since Columbine. While you can Google just about anything, there’s widespread disagreement as to what school shootings “count.”
Does someone have to be injured? Does someone have to die? Or is the very fact that one happened quite enough?
There are, of course, the ones We All Remember, among them Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, when 32 died. Or Sandy Hook, on Dec.14, 2012, when 26 — many of them little children — died.
For the record, neither total includes the shooters, both of whom ended up dead. Neither of them deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as their innocent victims.
And now we have Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland added to the terrible list. I’d never heard of it until I was driving into work on Wednesday afternoon, listening to the radio and Breaking News.
“There’s been another school shooting,” the newscaster began.
Right away, I felt in my gut it wasn’t good. Within hours we learned just how bad it was: 17 lives snuffed out by gunfire from an AR 15 legally purchased by a long-troubled 19-year-old. Who eventually was picked up about a mile away after stops at Walmart, Subway and McDonald’s.
Things seem only to have gotten worse in the days since then, hearing the wrenching stories about the unfulfilled promise of those who died and witnessing the anguish of those who loved them. It's heart-breaking.
And then there is the FBI’s admission that it failed to follow up on a very specific Jan. 5 phone tip that might well have stopped the shooter from doing exactly what he did.
Not surprisingly, the gun control debate has begun anew, with a passion seen after Columbine, after Virginia Tech, after Sandy Hook, debates which changed …. Absolutely nothing.
There has been another school shooting. And I just don’t know what to say anymore.