What do we say when so many details of the Freeman High School tragedy leave us speechless?
We’d like to say it’s unbelievable, but we know better. So does every school in America, which is why they conduct periodic lockdown drills. Freeman High had one the day before. It’s routine.
Disbelief has given way to inevitability. With so many school shootings, “not here” has been replaced with “our turn.” Now it’s our community that will never be the same; our students, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses and first responders who will never forget.
We can be thankful it wasn’t worse, because it easily could’ve been.
Three years ago, at Marysville-Pilchuck High School across the state, 15-year-old Jaylen Fryberg shot five students, killing four, before killing himself. A cousin who witnessed it remarked, “His face, it just looked so blank, and he looked so lost, you know?”
At Freeman, a witness said of Caleb Sharpe, the suspected shooter, “His face was completely passive.”
The parents of Freeman students were as horrified as those at Marysville-Pilchuck and Sandy Hook and Red Lake and Columbine and Moses Lake and on and on. They’ll say the same things, and cope with the same horrifying helplessness.
But this time tragedy comes with names of students, teachers and others who live in this community. Their families and friends are here. We may even know them. They lead familiar lives that cause us to think, “That could be my children.”
This time we are angry, sad and frightened. The experience isn’t unique – in fact, the scope is smaller than many other school shootings – but it is personal. After all, those are our terrorized kids scrambling down hallways and crouching in classrooms.
This time it’s our first responders who had to deal with the uncertainty and the horror.
This time it’s our reporters and photographers navigating minefields of emotions (including their own) as they gather the details. It’s our TV anchors who deliver vital news through cracked voices. It’s our community being spotlighted by the national networks and newspapers.
This time we will have the debates about guns, ammunition storage, the Second Amendment, school safety, parenting and, yes, media coverage.
This time the national pundits, activists and assorted opportunists will tee up their glib takes based on a shooting that happened here. This time local politicians may join them.
But know this: Long after they’ve moved on to the next topic, long after they’ve sought their 15 minutes of fame, we’ll still be reporting the story. Included in that story will be the remarkable displays of solidarity, compassion and resilience as this community pulls together to heal.
This time, it’s our turn. And we will rise to the occasion.
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