On Tuesday morning in Roswell, N.M., a 12-year-old boy walked into a school gym and fired shots at classmates, sending two of them to the hospital. One of them is in critical condition with injuries to his face and neck. The other is in stable condition with injuries to her shoulder. Both students needed surgery. And the rest of kids from the school? Well, they’re shocked, scared and saddened of course, and so is the rest of the community, many, many people from the state and many others from around the country.
Work was long and exhausting that day, and unfortunately when you work in news, sometimes you forget to feel as you’re so busy trying to do everything else. I work on our website, so Tuesday was all about making sure it was constantly updated as new information came in. There were scripts to re-write for the web, videos to clip, a photo gallery to update, live streaming to set up for a vigil and news conference, alerts to send out over social media and text messages to schedule. And what’s unfortunate about news in general – even if you don’t work in it – is stories like this happen so often that we’re probably all a little numb.
I know this shooting could have been a lot worse, but it’s still a shooting. It involves violence toward children, by children, and it’s something that’s very hard to understand.
By the end of the night, my mind was spinning with all the “why” questions, and there will probably not be any solid answers. People will say we need to tackle mental illness issues and offer more help for those who need it. Others will say we should have stricter gun laws. Others still will say teachers should be equipped with guns. And some will try to figure out what’s promoting so much violence in society. Is it video games? Is it bad parenting? Is it depression? Is it violent movies? It’s it the news glorifying these events?
I’m not going to blame anyone, because I don’t know anything about what went inside this kid’s head before he packed up a gun and decided to create chaos. But what I do know is that for whatever reason, the lives of others were not precious to this student, at least not at that moment – and that in itself is really, really sad.
It’s interesting because the night before all this happened, I was reading a blog written by two parents a few years ago whose baby died after 99 days. Their words were so beautiful as they described this precious life they got to hold in their arms for little more than three months. Before their baby was born, they knew he would die. They knew he may never even grace the earth with his presence. But then he did! And he survived longer than all the doctors predicted.
Because this couple knew their time with their baby would be short, they decided to have a birthday celebration for every day of his life. They made him different hats, ate cake and planned parties with their friends. Every day that their baby was still breathing and could open his eyes was a day to be grateful for. And even the hard stuff, like dealing with breathing tubes and long, difficult feedings, were blessings.
I wish there was a way to remember that life – every single life, no matter how short or long – is precious beyond imagination. How wonderful would it be if we could all remember that?
For whatever reason (there are probably a million reasons, actually), sometimes we forget that the person sitting next to us could be gone tomorrow. Sometimes we forget that our lives and our loved ones’ lives can change in a moment. And sometimes we get so caught up in our own worlds that we forget there are billions of people out there who need love, kindness, patience and care.
Sometimes, unfortunately, people hurt us and we decide we don’t care about them anymore. We allow others to get under our skin so much, we forget to care for their wellbeing. We’re probably all guilty of this at some point. And sometimes, it takes some sort of tragedy for us to wake up again.
Luckily, the teens who were shot in Roswell on Tuesday did not die. But we all know of many other shootings that didn’t end the same way. Most recently, a student was shot at a Colorado high school and died in December. And how will any of us forget the Connecticut shooting just over a year ago when the world lost 26 innocent people in an instant, 20 of them children.
I’m focusing on school shootings here because they seem to catch us off guard more than others. Perhaps it’s because they always seems so random and the victims so young. But the truth is, I read about shootings almost every week. And like many of you, I read or hear about war, sickness and tragic accidents that occur all over the place every day. And every one of those people who dies means something wonderful to someone.
I don’t know what to do about mental illness and guns and violence in our culture, but I do know if we all truly believed everyone had value, so many thoughtless tragedies would never happen.
So, what can we do? Where do we go from here?
I think that’s a personal decision, but I think there are ways we can learn to appreciate, love and care for the people in our lives, and even the people we don’t know. Maybe in tragedy, all we can do is pray, but maybe that’s enough. We can remember that couple who celebrated every day of a baby’s life … a baby who never even spoke a word. If 99 days of one baby’s life was that precious, imagine how many other days of everyone’s lives could be celebrated.
When we hear about tragedy, maybe we can try to be more gentle in a world that seems harsh. And maybe that gentleness will grow and grow.
Just to make your day after this heavy conversation, here is the tribute video for the baby who lived 99 short days. And don’t be surprised if I bring him and his parents up again down the road. Their story just inspires me so.