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School shootings become a frightening trend

When death comes in large packages, the question "why?" is the bloody bow that needs to be untied. Perhaps there never will be a clear answer as to why one person turns into a killer while another becomes an exemplary leader or citizen. But if hi...

When death comes in large packages, the question "why?" is the bloody bow that needs to be untied.

Perhaps there never will be a clear answer as to why one person turns into a killer while another becomes an exemplary leader or citizen. But if history is a teacher, then this trend of bloodletting in our schools for the past 10 years is something to heed.

I do not believe it is just the nature of man. Things like this don't just happen. School shootings are not that common in our history. Something seems to be changing our young people. If you look back at the school-related shootings, most have taken place within a fairly short span of years.

I set out to review the history of school shootings after watching and listening to the hour-by-hour account of the killings at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. Is this just the way of our nation? I wondered.

The 32 people killed set a sad new record. It is the highest number killed in a school setting, with one exception: On May 18, 1927, Andrew Kehoe killed more than just students. He killed 45 people and injured 58.


After a year of planning, Kehoe placed explosives in his farm buildings and the local school, then used his car as a bomb. His aim was to kill those whom he said put his farm at risk. He blamed the community for his failures.

At high noon on Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Joseph Whitman killed 15 people from the main tower at the University of Texas at Austin before he was shot by police. Reports say he had a brain tumor that probably caused his actions.

Similar to the Virginia Tech killings are the Columbine High School shootings on April 20, 1999. We still remember vivid and terrifying pictures of students climbing out windows and running with arms over their heads, as well as the footage of still bodies being carried from the school.

The shootings in the Red Lake Nation school in Red Lake, Minn., didn't make much of a national impact, perhaps because "only" 10 were killed. But for our community, the shootings were a deep wound that only now is beginning to heal. The incident took place in an American Indian community where the culture and ways weren't easy to understand, but the majority who died were high school students.

Then on Oct. 3, 2006, in the West Nickel Mines Amish School in Lancaster County, Pa., 10 young school girls - ages 6 to 13 - were shot. Five of the girls died; the killer, Charles Roberts IV, took his own life.

The Amish are a community of people who have steered away from the mainstream because they don't condone violence. Although violence came to them, they turned that violence into forgiveness, to the surprise of many people outside their community.

And Monday, the record was broken when Cho Seung-hui, a South Korean student, opened fire in a dormitory and classroom building at Virginia Tech.

Experts say they're not sure why school shootings happen. Drugs and antidepressants are possible causes; at this point, though, such theories are just educated guesses.


But the number of incidents in a relatively short time span seems to indicate a trend. Perhaps the violence fed to us through the media provides a path for our own anger and frustrations. I admit there are times when I watch "who done it?" shows such as "Law and Order" or "CSI," shows in which the murder and killing seem to get more violent and bizarre each week. Actually, I no longer watch "CSI" because it is too graphic and comes into my dreams at night.

While at home over the weekend, I was astounded to hear about a rash of violence and sexual abuse among teens. Again, if you watch music videos and much of what is called entertainment today, you see that we are fed crime and sex as easily as a bowl of rice and chicken.

Not everything on television corrupts and causes nightmares. There are some wonderful, entertaining shows. A good example is the new series "Planet Earth," a National Geographic wonder that is too good to miss. There are others, many of them on channels featuring the Food Network, the Discovery channel, Animal Planet, the History Channel and some darn good movies.

The more we watch murder and violence on television, do we become more callous to the real thing?

We need to think seriously about our children, other people and how we can live more peacefully.

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