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Is there no safe place left?

And so another dark day came, when we turned on the television and heard the replays of gunfire, not exactly sure from where and not exactly sure why.

Other customary images followed. The ones we always see. The line of waiting ambulances. The scurrying police, with automatic weapons drawn. The stunned faces and broken voices of the witnesses. Eventually, a somber press conference, where someone gave us the latest body count, but not the reason.

In the end, we were told, the bar would have to be raised on bloodshed by the gun. A new record for the dead. The president said he is shocked. Aren’t we all?

We sit and watch the carnage, and peek outside at the bloody world and wonder. Where can we go to feel safe?

Twenty-one people were killed once eating lunch at a McDonald’s near San Diego. Columbine showed a high school library, with willing trigger fingers, can be turned into a killing field.

Where can we go? To church?

March 14, 2006. MILWAUKEE (CNN) – Police said on Sunday they don’t know why Terry Ratzmann, 44, burst into a Wisconsin church service and opened fire, killing seven people, and then himself.

Where can we go to feel safe? Shopping?

Feb. 13, 2007. SALT LAKE CITY (CBS/AP) – An off-duty police officer having an early Valentine’s Day dinner with his wife was credited Tuesday with helping stop a rampage in a crowded shopping mall by an 18-year-old gunman who killed five people before he was cut down.

Where can we go to feel we will be free from harm? A child’s birthday party?

March 12, 2006. CHICAGO (Chicago Tribune) – A 10-year-old girl was shot and killed Saturday in a spray of bullets while attending a cousin’s birthday party in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, only eight days after a 14-year-old girl was killed in a similar way just blocks away.

A young girl’s graduation party?

June 11, 2006. MORENO VALLEY, Calif. (KABC-TV, Los Angeles) – A 15-year-old girl was killed and another person seriously injured when a gunfight broke out at a graduation party, authorities said today.

Where can our kids can feel secure? Tucked away in a community with traditional religious beliefs that keep the outside world at a distance? Who would ever show up there wanting to hurt little girls?

Oct. 3, 2006. NICKEL MINES, Pa. (USA TODAY) – A milk-truck driver claiming to have a 20-year-old grudge barricaded himself inside a one-room Amish schoolhouse and shot 12 girls … before he committed suicide in the latest shocking attack at a U.S. school.

Maybe we must stay at home to be safe, with the children tucked in bed?

June 2, 2006. INDIANAPOLIS (CBS/AP) – Seven family members, the youngest just five years old, were shot to death in their home during what appeared to be a robbery attempt, officials said.

Or can we go to a college campus, haven for learning and tolerance and dreams of the young?

We always thought so. Death on a college campus is invariably jarring. That is what made Kent State such a shock. Gunfire on a campus, students lying in the street. Four died, and the nation needed therapy.

Now look at us.

The armed invasion of our sense of well-being is relentless. We turn on the television and see the pictures and wonder if there is anywhere to hide, anyplace for our children to go.

You would think a quiet campus in the hills of Virginia might be one place. Sitting in class on a cold, spring morning. Then someone comes in with a gun, like so many have before, like so many will again in this gun-drenched culture.

And pretty soon, there are the same mournful questions.

First we ask where. Then, how many. And in the end, why.

Meanwhile, another supposed sanctuary prepares its funerals.


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