I will likely add more actual facts to this node about what happened but for tonight, Charles (Andy) Williams was the boy who opened fire on students at his high school in Santee, California yesterday. What I will tell you right now came from a brief description from this morning's news on NPR
Charles loaded a revolver in the bathroom of his high school, walked out into the hallway and opened fire. He re-loaded several times. Witnesses say he had a smirk on his face. Two cops, one sherriff speaking to a class and another who was there to enroll his daughter at the high school, were on the school grounds at the time and were the men who cornered Charles and got him to stop shooting.
Charles is, like most kids who open fire at school these days, a skinny, small kid who was the victim of bullies for most of his life. I had read in a local paper about the events that he had had bullies break into his home (which was I believe in Maryland, where he lived before moving to California) and vandalize his bedroom. A treehouse in his parents' yard was torn apart by similar bullies. After he moved to California, he began running with a skatenboarder crowd that was involved in drug use of whatever was available to teens in that area.
The weekend before the incident, friends of Charles recounted him asking them if they wanted to help him shoot up the school. One kid told his mother's boyfriend, but the boyfriend did not report the incident to anyone. Now that what has happened has happened, this man is regretting his silence.
As the week goes on, we will find out whether he played violent video games, whether he was left unattended frequently at home, whether his parents had any clue what their son was going through at school or how he felt about school in general. The town where it happened will be graphed as a typical middle class town, usually quiet and non-violent. Parents, teachers, students and the community as a whole will be questioned and will find themselves asking questions. A memorial has alrady occurred for the two students Charles succeeded in killing before he was apprehended. In California and at the age of 15, Charles will be tried as an adult for murder, possession of a deadly weapon, and whatever else qulaifies in the case. At least 13 other students were reported injured at the scene. One student had a video camera and filmed some of the shooting, and later submitted it to the authorities as evidence. I heard only a few audio interviews from students at the school. Their depiction of the event seemed cold, as though they had simply seen a movie. Perhaps they were still in shock.
I for one am not that interested in the finer details of the event, what led up to it, or what will follow it. I know already what to expect. How quickly the media was informed. How quickly and calculated the event was documented. How easily it was compared to Columbine and other tragedies we have witnessed within the last few years. I followed Columbine's story religiously when it hit the air waves. I predicted the copy cats that followed. I am almost numb (no surprise) by the frequency and normalcy with which these stories are surfacing. And it scares the hell out of me.
We know all the stereotypes. We know more than we need to. When you're not in high school anymore, all you can do is wait for it to happen again, it seems. I won't pretend to have answers. All I know is what I saw as a teen. One opinion, that of my co-worker and friend, Sandi, is that teens aren't being told to fight back against bullies with their fists, if necessary. They may not be told anything. Somewhere along the line, they've believed that guns are somehow the answer. Bullies have been around since the beginning. How we've dealt with them, and with society's labels as teenagers, seems to have changed drastically. With most bullies, one physical altercation can remedy the problem at hand. I've heard many accounts. I've been bullied.
The fear that comes with physical conflict with a person one on one (or five on one, whatever your odds are) brings with it an adrenaline rush. To me, at least, being beat up is more fearful than being shot, since normally when you are shot you don't see it coming (if you're caught in the crossfire). Your body doesn't have time to react. Sandi says that these kids, maybe glued to their PC's, are believing that the only reaction to have is violence of the highest degree. I can't say what Charles tried to do to avoid what eventually happened. When people talk of things like this they ask what could have happened to make this kid go "over the edge" like that. Well, what if the edge has been moved back a bit? What if all the steps in between seem to have disappeared as options? There are so many questions, and I'm not educated enough to ask or answer many of them here. All it does is show me what I may have to teach my children, should I decide to have them. It shows me that my generation as parents have quite a chore in store for us.