The List Of School Shootings Just Keeps Growing. Do We Still Feel Anything?

Feb 15, 2018
Originally published on February 15, 2018 10:14 am

People in certain jobs develop a working relationship with death.

In many years of listening to people, I've learned it's a necessity. Nurses know that for all their efforts, many patients die. Soldiers and police see the deaths of comrades, and may also kill. War correspondents walk devastated cities.

Who would have guessed, though, that the people called upon to work so closely with death might include teachers and students?

Again and again in recent years, they have been targeted. After a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, then-president Obama noted, "The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old."

Many officials vowed it must never happen again, but many weapons have been fired in many schools since then. In Marysville, Wash., a student shot five other students, killing four and then killing himself. At Aztec High School in New Mexico, a former student killed two students and then himself. In Benton, Ky., just last month, a gunman killed two people and wounded more than a dozen. Then came Wednesday's shooting, the worst since Sandy Hook: 17 people dead, both students and adults.

Mass shootings — including school shootings — have grown common enough that any of us may grow a little like the hospital nurse or the firefighter: accustomed to carnage.

We arguably have to grow accustomed. Lawmakers and presidents have agreed on no effective solution to mass shootings — neither gun control nor mental care, neither a policy nor a prayer.

If the shootings continue, it follows that we have to bear them. Yet we run a risk if we cease to feel the effects. Nurses and cops and soldiers know: It's a risk to mental health. A risk to moral health. To the soul.

So it's appropriate to ask ourselves a question: In Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday, a teenager with what's believed to be an AR-15 rifle, opened fire in crowded hallways, and walked away after 17 people were killed.

Do we still feel it?

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

People in certain jobs develop a working relationship with death. In many years of listening to people, I've learned it's a necessity. Nurses know that for all their efforts, many patients die. Soldiers and police see the deaths of comrades and may also kill. War correspondents walk devastated cities. Who would have guessed, though, that the people called upon to work so closely with death might include teachers and students?

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BARACK OBAMA: The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.

INSKEEP: President Obama spoke after a man shot 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in 2012. In later years, more shootings came, including those in Marysville, Wash.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL #1: I mean, you could just tell - someone has a gun. Someone has a gun. So we just ran into a classroom.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

INSKEEP: Aztec, N.M.

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UNIDENTIFIED GIRL #2: We were sitting in a corner up against a wall, and I could, like, feel it vibrating. And then it stopped. And we were - when we evacuated out of our room, there was a dead body outside.

INSKEEP: Benton, Ky.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You just heard a bunch of people screaming run and get down. And you just saw like everyone going, trying to get out, trying to get to safety.

INSKEEP: And then yesterday, news of a shooting brought a man named Rohan Williams (ph) to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida.

ROHAN WILLIAMS: My daughter was the closest to the incident, and she texted me the second it happened. And I've been out here since. And there was a period of time where she could not text. They told them to silence their phones, no texting because the shooter was still at large. And that 20 minutes to half an hour was just death.

INSKEEP: When communications reopened, he learned that his daughter was safe. Mass shootings, including school shootings, have grown common enough that any of us may grow a little like the hospital nurse or the firefighter - accustomed to carnage. We arguably have to. Lawmakers and presidents have agreed on no effective solution to mass shootings, neither gun control, nor mental care, neither a policy, nor a prayer.

If the shootings continue, it follows that we have to bear them, yet we run a risk if we cease to feel the effects. Nurses and cops and soldiers know it's a risk to mental health, a risk to moral health, to the soul. So it's appropriate to ask ourselves a question. Yesterday, a teenager with what's believed to be an AR-15 rifle opened fire in crowded hallways and walked away after 17 people were killed. Do we still feel it? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.