Friday, December 12, 2008

What's This World Coming To?

My son came home from high school today and told me that there were police officers all over the place because there was a rumor that someone had planned a school shooting. My husband came home from work on this same day and told me that his office was evacuated due to an anthrax threat. The school shooting never happened thanks to diligence of the police and school officials, and it's looking like the anthrax testing is going to turn out to be two false-positive tests. However, I'm at a point where I no longer feel comfortable sending my loved ones out into the world each day.

My son's school has had a couple of lock-downs in years past due to threats of violence. This is not an inner city school. This is a small rural community. We have problems with drugs and violence just like everywhere else. The scariest incident happened many years ago when my daughter was in middle school. A woman called the police to notify them that her son was headed toward the middle school with plans to kill everyone in it. Her son was a grown man who lived an hour away from this middle school, but at one time lived near it. Apparently, he was emotionally disturbed and held some beef with that school.

The local police watched for vehicles that fit the description at the entrance to our town. When they spotted the man, they pulled him over and found dozens of weapons in his vehicle. He truly did intend to kill our community's children. The thought of what could have happened sickens me. Not only did my own daughter attend that school, but I had taught the majority of those students myself at one time or another as a substitute teacher.

Whether these threats come from adults or children, it is all a form of terrorism. Even when tragedies are prevented, the attackers still get their desired effect, which is to limit our freedom and replace comfort with fear. I've never understood this mentality that some people have in which they feel the need to punish innocent people for their own misery... or people who decide to become infamous because they can't become famous... or people who only feel in control and powerful when they are hurting others.

I used to worry about car accidents, fires and earthquakes. Now I worry about family members being victimized by some random act of terror. Sociopaths are becoming just as prevalent as mistakes and hiccups in nature. It's every one's responsibility to help each other out so that no one gets to the point of such desperation that he feels the need to hurt someone. We all should be aware and diligent about improving the quality of life for those around us. Sometimes it's as simple as offering a kind word.

Many years ago I started thinking about how I appreciated the work of a particular author. I wrote a letter to him complimenting him on his talent. He wrote back thanking me for my kind words. Much to my shock, he confessed to me that he had plans to commit suicide the very day he received my letter, but chose not do so after reading it. This man went on to get a PhD in creative writing and is now teaching at a college. I smile every time I read about him, knowing that in one moment of inspiration he brought to me, I helped him secure his own future. Just think of all the lives he's changing now by passing along his knowledge and encouragement. The loss of just one person can change the fate of a lot of people. We can't afford to lose anyone. Let's respect life.


Andrea said...

Oh my goodness. That is really scary! I think I might have to start home schooling. Thank goodness the police found him. And thank goodness there was a lead.

And how scary about your husband's work too! This world is truely a scary place these days.

I am glad you all are safe and sound.

Black Jack's Carol said...

Strange, the words in your post title were the exact ones that went through my mind this evening. An employee that had been let go shot and killed his ex-boss at the company Christmas party. I know it happens, but this was on a street in Vancouver that I often pass by, and the story left me shaken. Have to agree that sometimes, it doesn't take much to turn around a person's day.

lytha said...

lately on the german radio station i listen to, they've been having psychologists come in and talk about what makes people happy. how to be happy. they offered us some nice tips - they said what is common among truly happy people: they do nice things for other people. they make a habit of doing favors, and they go to a little extra trouble and write thank you notes over simple things. those thank you notes are key.

you experienced that, and even better! great story NM, thanks for sharing.

when i visited america this year, i became aware that i was tense in downtown seattle. i was a little bit fearful in the sea of people. what's gonna happen to me? i worried. i never used to worry - but i was always careful and tried to be aware. this time was different. i felt vulnerable in a way i never feel in big cities in germany. bad things happen everywhere, but america seems just more dangerous in general to me now that i'm away.

i understand when my city friends learn to shoot a gun just for their own safety. if i lived there, i'd be sure i had a big dog!

when you say "let's respect life" i will apply that personally by thinking of the little things i can do to minimize other's strife. say, by the way i drive my car. always checking to see if someone at the grocery store only has a few items so i can let her pass me in line. let me not contribute to the rushing around everyone does this time of year. i don't have a job, so i have plenty of time. i guess that can be my little way of showing respect to life: )

~lytha, feeling safe in germany

Mrs Mom said...

I am SO glad that your son was safe, and that the shooting did not happen. And your husband, too.

The best thing I can think of, is teaching your son about Situational Awareness. With his eye for photography and noticing small details, I bet he would be a great student, and that "training" may just save lives some day. SA is joked about a good bit, but it has saved MY skin on more than one occasion, my husbands, too.

You are all in our prayers here NM!

Merry Christmas to you all!

Shirley said...

Because I am a religious person and know the inner peace it brings, I believe that a lack of faith is the major contributor to the violence and ugliness in the world. That being said, everyone needs to be responsible for their own actions.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I agree that everyone does need to be responsible for their own actions, and when Shirley made that comment I realized that my story about the thwarted suicide attempt could be misinterpreted. If anyone knows someone who has committed suicide, you should never feel guilty or responsible. That was their choice, their action. I was using that story to illustrate how a simple act of kindness can have far-reaching effects, and we do have the power to improve not only our own quality of life, but the quality of life for those around us, whether it be by helping someone in need or by simply choosing not to bring that gun to school or not to send out that chemical in the mail or not to end your own life.

Reddunappy said...

Our teenage daughter told me that they were having lock down drills because another High School in the area, only @ 10miles away, had a lock down because of some kid bringing a gun to school. It is scary.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

That is so terrifying that you could have lost all 3 of your family members to a violent situation, NM. It's something that affects our inner peace and feeling of safety when we realize that other poeple can control our future's in such a horrifying way.

This was one of the factors in why we chose to homeschool our children. I won't get into homeschooling here because I do know you feel strongly about public education, and I respect that. Homeschooling is not for everyone and that's fine. But for our family it was the right option.

But I also want you to know that I'm very touched you were able to 'save' that author that almost ended his life. For him, you were a 'Rainbow'.

My mother committed suicide when I was only 8 yrs old. I wish she would have had a Rainbow, like you, too.

I want to share with you something that changed me, something that I experienced on my 40th birthday, several years ago, if you don't mind.

I went to UNM to listen to Maya Angelou give a speech, and I want to share some of my experience (I had blogged about it, so my experience and Maya's words are copied and pasted here, from that blog post):

"We rise, and we rise," she said, "because we've had rainbows. A friend, a stranger, a family member who captured for us the nobleness of the human spirit."

Rounds of applause from the sold out UNM crowd greeted the legendary poet’s arrival on stage. Angelou silenced the audience with her deep alto voice by singing: “When it looked like the sun wasn’t going to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds.”

Rainbows in the clouds, which symbolize hope for humanity in times of hardship, became the underlying thread throughout her talk.

Throughout the hour-long lecture, Angelou sprinkled her childhood memories with bits of humor and profound wisdom; she painted pictures of the people who were her rainbows in the clouds, such as her grandmother and her uncle.

“They were men and women, who, thanks to their courage and love, were able to become rainbows in our clouds. Each one of us has that probability, that possibility. If a human being dares to dream a great dream, that means you have the possibility to do that too,” she said.

Angelou said she grew up in a small village in Arkansas that was smaller than the Popejoy Hall stage Center. When she was seven, she moved north to St. Louis to live with her mother’s family, where she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. The experience traumatized her so deeply that she stopped talking for roughly five years, which is when her grandmother became a significant influence in her life.

“Even though I was mute, I was always told by her that I was very, very intelligent. She even predicted that I would become a great teacher,” she said, laughing.

Angelou also described her Uncle Willie, who was “black, poor, male and crippled” and how he overcame a number of obstacles. Throughout his life, he influenced many people, including the first black mayor of Little Rock and a white lawyer who became a member of the State Legislature. Both of these men attributed their success to her Uncle Willie.

“Who would have looked at him and thought that he could be a rainbow in the clouds?” Angelou said.

Angelou continued by stating the importance of making poetry an integral part of everyone’s lives, which she claims has always been a motivating factor for her.

“During those years that I didn’t speak, I memorized Shakespeare, Langston Hughes, Longfellow, Countee Cullen and Paul Lawrence Dunbar. We look to poetry for encouragement.”

She said that poetry offers support for those who are going through hard times, because one can read it and know that someone else has already experienced something just as difficult, and, more importantly, made it through.

She concluded by urging everyone to make the most out of life, since “it’s given to us to live but once. The noblest cause in the world is the liberation of the human mind. Know that you all have the privilege of becoming a rainbow in the clouds.”

**Maya's speech was so inspiring to me. Afterwards I left wanting to hear more. I could have sat in Maya's kitchen and just listened to her for hours. One short hour was just not enough, which is so ironic for me to say because I am just not much of a 'lecture girl'....usually end up bored to tears. But while listening to Maya, it was impossible not to stay perched on the edge of my seat soaking in every word, and trying to delve a little deeper into the meaning of her poetry and wisdom.

For me, the Rainbow theme alone was such a blessing and spoke directly into my heart. When I first received the calling to homeschool, I felt like Noah being told to build an ark....I wanted no part of it.
I resisted in every sense of the word. And I prayed that God would send me a sign that the choice was the right thing. He sent me a striking and beautiful rainbow.

And after the March 2005 accident, that almost took 3 of my family members, He has sent me not only sky rainbows, but also human rainbows, to help re-instill my faith and give me a sign of hope.

In the end, Maya's Rainbow theme touched a deep place in my soul."

If only the world were full of beautiful Rainbows.......

New Mexico

Tiglizzyclone said...

I work at a middle school and almost every day I worry that something like what you describe might happen. Especially when I go to the cafeteria with some of our kids. Our kids are severely learning disabled, and I trust them. But the rest of the school? I am glad your son is ok.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Oooh, that's scary, especially about how close your daughter came to an incident. I think there was a report here about some suspicious white powder in one of the government buildings yesterday. Jeez! What is happening??

Wow- that is amazing about the author, divine intervention or what?

Cheryl said...

I really don't know why things like that are happening, but at my school, I hear there are KINDERGARTEN kids who have NO manners and talk back to teachers! KINDERGARTEN! Jeez...(shaking head in disgust)...My question is....WHERE are the parents and WHY aren't they making their kids BEHAVE?