Thursday, September 28, 2006

Echoes of the Darkest Day

When I was in Comp. 102 my freshman year of college, my teacher had us read an article that blamed school shootings on everything from rap music to violent movies. He then asked us what our opinions were. He added that if anyone needed to talk to an expert on school shootings, they should talk to me. Why? Because I was in one.
The sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of October 1, 1997 were with me when I heard the news out of Bailey, Colorado. At the time, very little was known about the shooting. The only thing that had been released was information about a hostage situation at a high school and a possible shooting. But even that was enough to get me thinking about the darkest day of my life.
It is now known that no student was to blame for the day of terror witnessed by these young students. Nor was a student to blame in the death that resulted from the hostage situation. In a strange turn of events, it was a 54-year-old homeless man named Duane Morrison. And when I heard that, I thought to myself, "how random." The details of this school-day incident were very strange. But the backlash from police action at the school may do more harm that the shooter ever could.
According to police, the man entered an English class and told everyone to line up against the wall. He then removed all the male students from the room. Police then say the man sexual assaulted some of the girls. It was during all this that the decision was made to storm the room and free the hostages. When SWAT moved in, the gunman used one of the girls as a human shield, shot her in the back of the head, and then shot himself. The girl was 16 and her name was Emily Keyes. A tragic end to a terrible event. But what will people say about the police action.
Too often in cases such as this and in cases of high-speed pursuits, the police are blamed for the deaths of innocent bystanders and sometimes the criminals. After what has been released on this incident, I am sure it will happen in this case too. Someone will make the point that if police had not stormed the room, this young girl would not have died. I'm sure someone will sue the Park County Sheriff's Office as a result. And it is simply ridiculous to do so.
People should not lose sight of the fact that an armed gunman entered that classroom. They should also remember that girls were screaming for help as they watched their friends be assaulted by this man. They should remember that police are employed to protect citizens from these dangers. They should realize they were only doing their jobs. And they should back off.
Had it not been for the impulse thinking of certain people on the morning of October 1, 1997, many more people could have died in my school. The same is true in this case. It is tragic to lose someone so young, but much worse could have happened if police did not act. Everyone in the media and the public needs to understand this. Let these people grieve and don't blame anyone but the man that pulled the trigger.

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