Opinion: An Outrageous Crime Has Become A Commonplace Event

May 4, 2019
Originally published on May 6, 2019 7:30 am

I was sitting next to a college chancellor at an event Tuesday night when our cell phones began to beep with the first bulletins about the shootings at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Two students were killed; four were injured.

"My first thought," Susan Koch, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Springfield, told me, "was, 'That could have been my campus.' All campuses in the U.S. are vulnerable."

The shootings in Charlotte were widely reported, especially the heroism of Riley Howell, the student who died when he threw himself at the shooter, and saved many lives.

But news of another school shooting - even that phrase, another school shooting - may remind you how an outrageous crime has become a commonplace event.

We are just a few days into the fifth month of the year, and there have already been 41 shootings in U.S. schools. You might recall some of the names - Eaglecrest High School in Colorado, Fredrick Douglass High School in Baltimore - that become well known for a news cycle.

Some school shootings might be a mishap, like the accidental discharge of a weapon. Some happen in classrooms, others in parking lots. But they all contribute to the feeling of vulnerability in our schools, and now our houses of worship.

Institutions now have protocols. When shots rang out in Charlotte, the university's Office of Emergency Management tweeted, "Run, Hide, Fight. Secure yourself immediately." Campuses are locked down. Police have probably trained. The press has learned to report more about victims than the alleged shooter.

Active shooter drills are now a part of school life. Many parents of grade-school children have been heart-sick to hear youngsters of the age when they still have Show-and-Tell come home to talk about a drill where teachers had to bolt a door, help them hide in a closet, or crouch on a floor, to rehearse what to do in event of an attack.

But as Chancellor Koch told us, "It's only responsible to understand the increased risk to our communities."

There have also been attacks in recent weeks on the Chabad of Poway synagogue in California, where one worshipper was killed and three wounded; the burning of three African American churches in Louisiana; and the 11 people who died in the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh six months ago.

People in places where Americans are supposed to be safe, feel peace, and keep open minds and hearts, now might feel they have to worry about seeing a message flash before them: "Run, Hide, Fight. Secure yourself immediately."

: 5/04/19

Previous audio and Web versions of this story mistakenly said the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue happened five months ago. It actually happened six months ago.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

I was sitting next to a college chancellor at an event Tuesday night when our cellphones began to beep with the first bulletins about the shootings at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Two students were killed, four were injured. My first thought, Susan Koch, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Springfield told me, was that could have been my campus. All campuses in the U.S. are vulnerable.

The shootings in Charlotte were widely reported, especially the heroism of Riley Howell, the student who died when he threw himself at the shooter and saved many lives. But news of another school shooting - even that phrase, another school shooting - may remind you how an outrageous crime has become a commonplace event. We are just a few days into the fifth month of the year, and there have already been 41 shootings in U.S. schools. You might recall some of the names - Eagle Crest High in Colorado, Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore - that became well known for a news cycle. Some school shootings might be a mishap like the accidental discharge of a weapon. Some happen in classrooms, others in parking lots, but they all contribute to the feeling of vulnerability in our schools and now our houses of worship.

Institutions now have protocols. When shots rang out in Charlotte, the university's Office of Emergency Management tweeted, run, hide, fight, secure yourself immediately.

Campuses are locked down. Police have probably trained. The press has learned to report more about victims than the alleged shooter. Active shooter drills are now a part of school life. Many parents of grade-school children have been heartsick to hear youngsters of the age when they still have show and tell come home to talk about a drill where teachers had to bolt a door, help them hide in a closet or crouch on a floor to rehearse what to do in event of an attack. But as Chancellor Koch told us, it is only responsible to understand the increased risk to our communities.

There have also been attacks in recent weeks on the Chabad of Poway synagogue in California where one worshipper was killed and three wounded, the burning of three African American churches in Louisiana and the 11 people who died in the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh six months ago. People in places where Americans are supposed to be safe, feel peace and keep open minds and hearts now might feel they have to worry about seeing a message flash before them - run, hide, fight, secure yourself immediately. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.