Copyright © 1999 Henrietta W. Hay
May 7, 1999
Littleton. Before April 20 the word brought up memories of the little
town next to my home town of Englewood, the town whose one High School
was our arch enemy in football (I even remember their school colors ),
the Arapaho county seat with the gray stone court house and a couple
blocks of stores.
Now the word Littleton is known world wide and the image is one of
Millions of words have been written about the massacre in Columbine High
School. Probably none of them can comfort the parents of the slain
students. I can't even begin to imagine what those mothers and fathers
must be going through and will have to live with for the rest of their
The questions all of us are asking is, "How could it have happened?"
"How can we keep our children safe?" We are all searching for any
reason that can possibly explain the horrible event, and ways to
prevent such a thing from ever happening again.
But there are too many knowns and too many unknowns -- too many causes
and too many non-causes. As adults there are too many things we know
we have done wrong and not enough things we know about maintaining a
civil society and raising our children in a complex world.
Violence has been with the human race always, but this violence is so
close to home and so deeply emotional that we instinctively hunt for
someone or something to blame. How could this awful thing happen in a
mostly white, middle class, prosperous neighborhood -- not unlike ours?
We have read that it happened because of declining moral values, bad
parenting, lack of school discipline, violent movies, violence on
television, library access to the Internet, violent computer games, easy
accessibility of guns. Yes, maybe it happened for all those reasons or
maybe for none of them. We don't know for sure what mix of reasons
caused those two boys to do what they did.
Like all of us, they had free choice -- free choice which makes us
human, which allows the greatest good and the greatest evil in the
world. Those boys chose evil, but in the midst of the emotional
upheaval we have to remember that most of us make good choices most of
the time. Otherwise the human race would have disappeared many years
Pat Wagner wrote on the library net that, "We live in a relatively free,
young and diverse country, where we have decided not to restrict
personal freedom in exchange for security and safety." We chose that
kind of country some two hundred years ago and I for one hope we never
Now, we are being asked to consider how many of our freedoms we are
willing to give up to achieve what we call safety, but I think the time
for political sloganeering is over. We must solve this as individuals
with our own free choice. There is no easy fix.
When one woman, Rosa Parks, said, "Enough. I will not move to the
back of the bus," generations of prejudice started to crumble.
Societal shifts sometimes happen in spite of laws. Drunk driving deaths
have been falling as a result of many people saying "This has got to
stop." There are too many guns out there, but if pro-gun people want
protect their rights they owe it to the rest of us to take personal
responsibility in keeping them out of the hands of children. Parents
who would restrict our First Amendment rights in order to protect their
children from "harmful" ideas, must be responsible for teaching their
children to handle ideas and not try to destroy free speech for adults.
Maybe this tragedy will push us to the point where as individuals we can
make the hard choice and say, "Enough. This hatred and random violence
has got to stop, and it is the responsibility of each and every one of
us to do our part."
Could one good thing have come out of the horror of that day in