I was prepared.
I was prepared to talk about how school safety had prevailed. I was prepared to talk about how a gun was used to save lives. I was prepared to talk about how a trained officer prevented tragedy without losing a single life — not even the attacker's. I was prepared to say we were getting somewhere.
But, as of Friday, we found ourselves back where we began.
Earlier this week, school resource Officer Mark Dallas was able to incapacitate a former student before any intended targets at Dixon High School in Illinois were hurt, but 10 people were killed at Sante Fe High School in Texas just before the weekend.
When the news broke Friday morning, the two events were at odds with one another in my mind. I wanted to celebrate everything that prevented killing in Illinois, and I wanted to mourn everything that led to it in Texas. But I've come to the conclusion we can do both as we move forward. We can take the good with the bad and forge something new for our world, meld ourselves something with the best of what prolonged life and none of what ended it. Surely, were the same people in the same place at the same time, the Sante Fe attack would have been another story of heroic action that ended with every child returning home safely.
But the situation was different, and it ended differently. However, that doesn't mean our role is to gloss over the past with steely resolve. For, if we learn nothing from the tragedy — if we do nothing — we insult the lives lost.
Now, some might gravitate toward silence in light of these happenings, but the conversation needs to continue, because it's obvious things can indeed play out as they did at Dixon High, but we are not yet at the point in which it is common place to lose absolutely no life. What's more, the escalating frequency with which these attacks are occurring demands we take action soon and do our best to replicate the response at Dixon when the need arises. Better yet — find a way to improve upon it and be sure it's impossible to deal death in the schoolyard.
Now, I will limit myself and make no call for which direction — left, right or center — we should be heading, but I will say again, we must start taking our first steps.
That may mean more training. That may mean more police. That may mean stricter gun laws. That may mean more metal detectors. That may mean better mental health screenings. That may mean more funding for social services, and that may mean more taxes to cover the cost of said services — so we may have to ask ourselves which is more important. Frankly, attempting to address gun violence may mean many things, and I have no expectation that we will all agree. There are many complex factors which lead people to feel as though they must take a human life, and it follows that there would be complex solutions. But, as a professor of mine often said, something can be complex without being complicated, just as something can be simple without being simplistic.
While each camp has its preferred path through the proverbial woods, the one thing we should not do is end the conversation. The problem is clearly not fading away. It is growing. The response is growing, and we must be prepared to grow with it.
We must be prepared.