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Look for the good, despite all of the bad

On Monday, Oct. 25, two teenagers were arrested and charged with inciting violence after allegedly plotting an attack at Edgerton Local Schools. The plan was deemed credible by officials and included a hit list of students and staff. This column in reaction to that news was published in The Bryan Times Monday, Nov. 4, 2013.

It wasn’t the first time our newspaper had coverage of a school threat, but this was different. Things had changed, and suddenly it was too close to home — literally.

Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Chardon — the people in those cities said “We didn’t think it could happen here.” 

I suppose I thought the same thing despite the evidence that attacks can happen anywhere — schools, malls, marathons, movie theaters. Still, as I walked back to my desk after lunch Monday, the news from Edgerton stopped me in my tracks.

And the thought really sunk in: “Yes, it can absolutely happen here.” 

Nothing happened — but it could have.

Social media isn’t always the best place to look in times of chaos, but I could hardly look away from my newsfeed the next two days. Call it self-abuse or curiosity or a strange way of coping, but I didn’t stop reading the posts from my friends.

Being a graduate of Edgerton and a resident of Edon, I have friends from both districts that were affected — meaning I saw a range of reactions. Some people were shocked and scared. Others were outraged. And some prefered to just pray.

I read rumors, speculation finger-pointing, and lots of questions that will have to remain unanswered for now.

Then a few people expressed thanks — for the parent who spoke up and for the officials who handled the investigation. I agreed.

It could have happened — but it didn’t.

As journalists we’re told not to be too invested in our work. We need to be unbiased, distanced, objective. Don’t let your work cross into your personal life, my professors said.

But when you work at a community newspaper, those lines are blurred so very often. It’s not for lack of professionalism, however. It’s just an inherent issue of small town living. In my short career, I’ve interviewed relatives, former teachers, friends — people with whom I’ve had a relationship outside of the newsroom. With a small staff of area natives, it’s just inevitable that personal and professional relationships are combined from time to time.

Mostly, it’s not a problem.

Last week, however, I started to have trouble distinguishing the personal from the professional. While reading statements from a man who was once my softball coach or envisioning teachers, cousins and friends at my alma mater, I  was numb.

My work and my worries couldn’t be separated. It was all I could do to stop from crying at my desk when I learned there was a hit list.

Some stories you just don’t want to cover — you wish they didn’t exist.

Outside the office, I tried to run away from the matter, literally. I had hoped my morning jogs would clear my mind and bring some calm to the chaos in my head. Instead, I found my mind wandering to the what-ifs and what-nows that I’m sure other people have thought of.

And each time my regular path took me past the Edon school building, I thought of someday sending my daughter there. Just last week, she visited my nephew for his class Halloween party. She was so excited to go to school like a big kid — she wore her backpack, read books and played with puppets in the classroom.

Someday, she’ll go to school every day, and I’ll have to trust the people there to keep her safe.

Try not to think about it — but you can’t forget.

I have strong faith in our area school officials. They all care about our children and our communities. I know they are doing what they can to keep them safe.

However, it’s delusional to think that the newspaper will never have to cover a school threat story again, or that this is the last we’ll hear of the week’s events.

We cannot dwell on what happened, but we also cannot stick our heads in the sand. Perhaps the good of the situation is that we opened our eyes to the real possibility of violence in our backyards.

All over the country, some people argue for tougher security measures, others for counseling or programs to help those in need. The fact remains however, that bad things happen despite all our good intentions.

So I refuse to pretend there is a solution.

Someday, when she’s old enough to understand, I’ll have to explain to my daughter that the world can be a scary place.

But, I’ll remind her, we can find safety, beauty and good all around us, every day. Those are the things we should search for — those are the things that should be the focus of our lives.

And I know I won’t forget the events of this week a few years from now, when I’m loading up her backpack and dropping her off at school. But I’ll focus instead on how excited she will be to learn, to read, to play with her friends.

That’s the good I want in her life, despite all the bad I know is out there.

Comments

  1. Well written, Tami. Completely agree. Last year, we had an incident here where I teach and it was real...because it was close to home.

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