Picking up the pieces

A look at how small towns have rebuilt from school shootings. Plus, how Elder High School is working to prevent from one of these tragic events happening on the school's campus.

The Columbine Memorial in Jefferson County, Colorado and the victims who are being remembered.

The Columbine Memorial in Jefferson County, Colorado and the victims who are being remembered.

The United States has been plagued by school shootings over the past two decades.  The schools and communities which have been affected by these heinous crimes have all had to start a rebuilding process in order to return to a sense of normalcy.  Elder High School is working to prevent crimes like these from ever happening on their campus.

The innocent lives which have been taken by these cowardly school shooters will be remembered by their small communities for the rest of time.  The shooters’ names will live in infamy, and many questions will never be answered.  Small towns and communities have been the source of many of these crimes like Newtown, Connecticut and Chardon, Ohio.

Sophomore Max Gramke described the shooting in Newtown as “sad” and “tragic.”  Many of Americans had the same feeling about the event, and it has since changed the perspective on hand guns in the United States.

One of the most infamous shootings occurred in Jefferson County, Colorado on April 20, 1999.  Columbine High School is located at the base of the Rocky Mountains.  This school was the target of one of the worst school shootings in the history of the United States.  Two of the school’s very own students were responsible for the attack, and they were set on wreaking havoc on their high school’s campus.

The two were armed with guns, knives, and homemade bombs.  They placed two bombs in the cafeteria during the first lunch period, but fortunately they did not detonate.  Once they realized that their original plan failed, they took the guns which they had on their persons and walked toward the school.  The next hour and half was filled with students running for their lives and hiding under desks and tables. The two shooters showed little to no mercy.

The chaos which interrupted that calm spring day finally ceased by one o’clock in the afternoon.  Twelve students and one teacher lost their lives that day along with the two shooters who committed suicide.  The students who survived the shooting have war-torn eyes even though they have never been on the forefront of battle.

It is hard to wrap one’s head around the crime and why the students committed it.  Unfortunately this is the same question which arises with most school shootings.  Theories and assumptions serve as ways to explain the tragic events, but there is no conclusive way to determine the motive of the perpetrators.

At some point each community has to begin to pick up the pieces and try to return to some sense of normalcy.   The grieving process will never end for most people who are affected by these events, but memorials, prayer vigils, and remembrances serve to alleviate the pain.

Places like Jefferson County have erected memorials to remember the victims of the shooting. These projects are normally funded by the community which houses the memorial in their town, but there is also an outpouring of support from other Americans.  These memorials bring the community closer together because, in some ways, it gives people a feeling of closure.  Even 15 years after the Columbine massacre, the lost lives are remembered in the stone walls which encase the names of the victims.

Schools across America are working to create a safer environment for students by creating new and better lockdown strategies in hopes to prevent another tragedy.

Elder High School is also trying to give the students a safer place to learn.  The school has a new lockdown policy which the students have practiced, and they are now better prepared for an intruder.  Elder has also placed peep holes in each classroom door, so in the case of an intruder, teachers will be able to see who is in the hall way.

Mr. Kurt Ruffing, Elder’s Dean of Discipline, has worked with law enforcement and other school administrators to make Elder High School safer.

“With an Intruder Lockdown, the protocol this year is the same as last year, and that is A.L.I.C.E., an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. The faculty and staff have been trained to implement this protocol,” said Ruffing.

Elder had a lockdown drill on October the 22nd, and the teachers had to use the A.L.I.C.E. protocol.  This protocol is fairly new, and local law enforcement has recommended schools in the area use it.

“(A.L.I.C.E.) was created due to incidents such as Columbine and uses options-based, proactive, survival strategies,” said Ruffing.

These shootings have unfortunately occurred, and as students and future parents, we all hope that these tragedies will never happen in our lives.