Another week, antoher tragedy

Once again I find myself at a loss for words. I’ve been in this place before - too many times. We have all watched the horrific scenes from a South Florida high school as students embraced one another in shock and horror in the aftermath of yet another school shooting. It is the eighth school shooting that resulted in injury or death this year - and the year is only seven weeks old. A little more than one a week. Seventeen people have been confirmed death in Parkland Florida on Wednesday, less than a month earlier a 15-year-old opened fire at a school in Kentucky leaving two dead and 18 injured.

First of all, before I go any farther, it is important to say clearly that this is not about statistics. It is about real people:

Alyssa Alhadeff was 14 years old and had played soccer since she was 3. She had one of the best games of her life the day before she died. She was a debater and studied Spanish.

Martin Anguiano was a 14-year-old freshman, sweet and caring and loved by his family and friends. He was a funny kid, who knew how to make others laugh.

Scott Beigel was a geography teacher who paused to user students into his room as the building went into lockdown. He could have just closed the door, but went out into the hall to make sure that all the students got into the classroom. He died shielding students.

Nicholas Dworet was a swimmer and had just come back from a recruiting visit to the University of Indianapolis. He had already earned an academic scholarship and planned to study physical therapy.

Aaron Feis was well known to all of the students at Sonemand Douglas High School. He was an assistant football coach and security monitor. He also was a graduate of the school. He would go out of his way to help any student who was in need.

Jamie Guttenberg was a dancer and had a special talent for reaching out to a cousin, who has special needs. the 14-year-old enjoyed hanging out with her friends.

Christopher Hixon, 49, was the school’s athletic director and was named athletic director of the year in 2017 by the Broward County Athletics Association. He is described by his students as “a great coach and an awesome motivator.”

Luke Hoyer, 15, was a basketball player who followed the N.B.A. stars and was serious about the sport. He was described by his fellow students as “quiet, with a big heart.”

Cara Loughran loved the beach and was adored by her cousins. The 14-year-old was an excellent student.

Gina Montalto was a member of the school’s winter color guard team. Her choreographer said of the 14-year-old: “We lost a beautiful soul tonight.”

Joaquin Oliver, 17, wrote poetry and played city league basketball, where his jersey was number 2. He went by the nickname, Guac, because people had trouble spelling his name.

Alaina Petty, 14, volunteered to work clean up after Hurricane Irma and was an active member of her church. She was a member of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Meadow Pollack was 18 and a senior, planning to go to Lynn University in Boca Raton next year. She worked in a motorcycle repair business and was a high achiever.

Helena Ramsay, 17, was smart, kindhearted and thoughtful. She was dedicated to her academic studies and had a way of bringing out the best in others.

Alex Schacter, 14, played trombone in the marching band, which earned highest honors in last year’s state championship.

Carmen Schentrup was a 2018 National Merit Scholarship semifinalist. Her cousin described her in a facebook post as “the smartest 16-year-old I have ever met.”

Peter Wang, 15, was in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. He had been active in helping to prevent other students from being bullied. He was friends with all who met him.

Each of these precious souls was loved and is mourned by a wide circle of loving family and friends. Losing such incredible lives is a national tragedy.

And the rhetoric has already begun. The speeches are on-going, and it seems that somehow we lack the national will to really make substantive changes that will prevent future tragedies. Those who argue for simple common sense regulation of access to firearms are shouted down by loud and well-financed voices that label any kind of regulation as prevented by the second amendment. Our President, in his address to the nation, didn’t mention guns or gun control at all, but he did refer to mental health. This is the same president whose proposed budget cuts drastically federal funds that support the meager mental health services that we now have.

Here in South Dakota, as well as in the other states of our nation, those who provide health care to the most vulnerable, generally referred to as Community Service Providers (CSP) are heavily dependent upon funding from Medicaid, a federal program. Health care providers cannot afford to pay living wages to the people who provide direct support to those in need. The state and federal governments are essentially unwilling to invest in basic services at a rate that provides for consistent care to those in need.

The confessed shooter in the Florida school tragedy is a 19-year-old who has a history of mental illness and whose mother died in November. Although he had been referred to counselors in the past, there is no evidence that he received services in recent months. After the shooting it was revealed that he had made an Instagram posts with several photos of guns, including one with at lest six rifles and handguns.

Arguing about whether access to guns or access to mental health care is to blame for the tragedy is pointless. People will retreat to previously-held positions and nothing will change. We moan and cry and fuss when a tragedy occurs and then things will remain as they have been.

I pray for the victims and their families. But each of my prayers includes another appeal: “God help us to find the will to make the changes that will prevent future tragedies.”

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!