The Reason Why

In a town I used to live in… at a school my daughter attended… a young man had enough… and pulled out a weapon and shot a fellow student. Fortunately, the victim wasn’t killed.

Immediately in the aftermath, there were photos of students running outside the high school, being comforted, and police responding, but I’m willing to bet you quickly scrolled past that news. It was just another school shooting which has become so commonplace you probably have already forgotten all about it until reminded just now.

I’m sure the city of Mattoon, Illinois won’t forget anytime soon.

They won’t forget the shooter, a 14-year-old freshman who had been in school hardly a month, who was taken into custody. His life forever changed and his family likely shunned in the weeks and months to follow. They won’t forget the victim who reportedly is in such good spirits following the incident that he joked about his grades. Of course, they won’t forget Angela McQueen, a math and PE teacher, who subdued the shooter and likely saved lives.

You know what will be forgotten? The reason why.

It was apparently easy for this young man to bring a gun to school and that should scare each and every one of you, but I’m not sure it does. The Sandy Hook shooting was the turning point in America. We didn’t make getting guns harder after that and collectively, we just decided school shootings were par for the course in living in these United States of America.

These tragedies should never happen in our schools. Of course, easy access to guns is not the most important thing anyone is thinking about in Mattoon. They are worried about their kids and rightfully so.

I’m worried about what was going through a 14-year-old boy’s head that bringing a gun to school was a solution. I am wondering why the shooter felt he had no other recourse. Why was a gun the answer?

Where were the teachers and counselors before it came to this? Of course, it is entirely unfair of me to speculate on the details. Maybe the shooter was a well-known troubled young man. Maybe teachers and friends tried to help. The inside story may never come out. Still, I wish an enterprising young journalist might actually find out the details and the reason or reasons.

The Mattoon Journal Gazette-Times Courier talked to students and parents the day after the shooting. They praised Ms. McQueen and described the shooting and panic resulting from the incident. The entire coverage from the local newspaper has been clear, but not thought-provoking.

Mattoon is a small town. Rumors have already spread like wildfire. I’ve heard bullying, but that seems like the catch-all answer for everything. Nothing travels faster than gossip. I think someone like Will Leitch might separate the facts from the fake news. At the very least he has a vested interest in his hometown. I would like an answer, but I’m not holding out much hope.

School shootings like this remind me of the Columbine massacre where two individuals killed 12 students and a teacher. The shooters then were outcasts or at the very least felt like outcasts. I wonder if the shooter in Mattoon considered himself an outcast.

As a father to a daughter who is a teacher, this tragic event frightens me. My brother and sister-in-law are teachers and I don’t think they have any answers either.

I’m tired of reading about school bullies and school shootings. Can we stop this from happening? Can we find the reasons and put an end to it?