Tragedy in Marysville
News travels quickly.
On Friday morning, a freshman at Marysville-Pilchuck High School shot and killed a fellow student, seriously wounded four other students, and then killed himself. In one instant, two young lives came to an end and scores of other lives were permanently changed. Hundreds of other children have been traumatized by this ghastly experience. Waves of fear and sadness will impact 1000’s of Marysville residents, young and old. These breakers will crash into other cities and towns in Snohomish County. What was supposed to be “spirit day” at Marysville-Pilchuck High, heralding a big football game and homecoming, turned into a truly macabre scene. Sadly, this picture has become all too common in American life.
Public school is one of the great social leveling experiences of young lives. All of our children attend school. It is a huge transition for Moms and Dads when we send our kids to Kindergarten. Now, parents wonder—“Will my child be safe”? It’s a frightening thought.
The horror of that instant will ripple through our community for the next several weeks and longer. Some children will not want to go to school, other kids may have trouble falling asleep, some youngsters may experience stomachaches or headache, and younger children may develop specific fears that they didn’t have before. Children who are already anxious kids may find themselves even more worried.
Adults will be unsettled too. One of our many jobs as parents is to protect our children from harm. It’s a very basic instinct. Yet, when something like this happens in our community, we all feel that we have failed. How could we allow this to happen? What did we miss? What did we do wrong? How could this have been prevented? How could this happen to us?
I am particularly saddened for the Tulalip tribe and their families. This close knit community has lost one of their own. Two relatives of the shooter are at Harborview with serious injuries. These waves will crash into the heart and soul of this small community for a long time to come.
In the still of night, many young children will ask their parents–Why?
Despite all of the school shootings since Columbine in 1999, we are still at a loss to understand all of the elements that form these violent acts. Yes, they are often males. Revenge is a frequent motive. They are frequently isolated, alienated youngsters. But sometimes, as in Marysville, they are popular, well-liked kids too.
One common theme runs through each incident—easily obtained guns are the instruments of destruction.
Those of us in the public health arena focus on controlling access to weapons. We know that teenager’s brains are still not fully formed. They lack judgment, life experience, self-awareness, and most importantly, they are impulsive. These components, combined with ready access to guns, can transform a thunderstorm, with lightening and noise, into a tornado that wrecks havoc throughout the community.
Many will say that violent individuals will find a means, no matter what policies we promote regarding gun control. But here we are talking about teenagers. They are creatures of the moment. Without the means, they might have a bad day, plotting revenge, but then a better moment arrives the next day.
On Saturday, I spent the morning with mental health professionals at the Marysville School District office talking to kids, parents, and teachers who were in distress. One elementary school teacher, wiping tears from her eyes, wondered how she was going to explain to her 8 year old students why this happened. She was afraid that she would break down in tears as she pondered the wide-ranging impact of this tragedy.
We are all in the same boat, and it can be pretty leaky.
Meanwhile, lets send our thought and prayers to the wounded youngsters who are in the hospital, fighting for their lives.