Reynolds High School and Compassion

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That is my favorite photo of my high school graduation. I am the slouchy girl with very little hair on the right. It is hard to believe that it was seven years ago, but there goes time for you. Those kids up there were some of the best people I knew at the time and not much of that has changed. One of them is now in Ethiopia, another is working with battered children, one will most likely cure cancer one day, and another is honestly to goodness one of the best guys I will ever know.

But unfortunately this photo isn’t relevant to me just for nostalgia’s sake right now. For those of you who only know me through this medium, I am an alum of Reynolds High School, which was the scene of another school shooting last week.  It shouldn’t be possible to say the words, “another school shooting,” but that is a discussion for another time or maybe later in this post if I get to upset, rambly, off-topic, or all three. Anyway, my friend Ivan and I went to the candlelight vigil last night and upon leaving we walked past the sign at the entrance to the school. That sign has become a memorial full of balloons, messages, and flowers. But for me, I haven’t been able to sleep since.

It was comforting and sweet to see, until we read the sign: Bitches Love Jared P. That sign stopped me short. It took me a while to work it out, and even now I am trying desperately to give the author the benefit of the doubt. Jared was the shooter and we were tempted to take down the sign ourselves. But we didn’t. I thought it was because of fear–fear of getting caught, of ruining someone’s right to free speech, of starting a conversation I don’t know how to have let alone finish.

But the thing is, I got home two hours ago and while I should be sleeping because I have to work tomorrow at 7am, which means I need to be up at 6am, and I am not a functioning human being until about 8am WITH a full 8-10 hours of sleep, I can’t. Sleep that is. I have tossed and turned and kept Husband awake who has a cold and also has to work tomorrow. I am realizing that I didn’t and still don’t want to take the sign down without having a conversation about WHY I feel the sign should be pulled. I don’t want to take it down in the dark of the night and then pretend I didn’t do it, and pray no one notices.

I want it taken down, but not like that. To me the literal meaning of this sign is that anyone who loved or loves Jared is a bitch. Maybe there is a back story that I do not know, or maybe I am not understanding the sign correctly. Especially since it looks like it was drawn carefully and tied to the gate with matching navy blue ribbons. Whoever wrote it put thought into it, or at least it looks that way. So I hope that I am wrong about what they meant–for their sake.

But the problem with that theory is that I am afraid other people will read the sign the way I did, and that some of those people may be friends and family of Jared’s. What he did was horrible. But the people who cared about him have lost him and they have to come to terms what he did. It is so painfully hard to understand why someone so young is taken from us without having to understand the fact that he was a murderer on top of it.

Our community needs compassion, the friends and family of Jared need compassion just as much as his victim Emilio Hoffman. I am not condoning what he did, but I am not condoning that sign either. That sign espouses hate and guilt. It doesn’t allow for healing or grief. These kids who are suffering through this tragedy need role models in this community. We need to have a conversation about this. It needs to be said that no matter how much we are hurting, no matter how angry we feel we cannot hurt other people in the process. This sign is hurtful, at least for someone out there and one person hurt by this is too many.

I am having a hard enough time living with the reality that this happened at the high school I went to, the high school that I still know teachers at, the high school that I know kids at. It was incredibly scary to watch the news reports unfold, wondering the whole time if the teacher who was grazed was someone I knew, or the kid who was killed was someone I knew through Search and Rescue. If it is this hard for me, if this makes me this scared and angry I cannot imagine what it is doing to those who lived through it.

We have to remember that Jared was a person before he did this. He was a person who was loved by his friends and by his family. Those connections do not die because he committed a horrible act. They do not go away even though he has shaken a community to its core and changed the lives of Emilio and his family forever. Those who loved him are not HIM. They did not pull the trigger and they have the right to grief for the loss of their loved one. They have the right to try to heal and work through this horrible mental thing he has left them with. And they have the right to do all of that in a compassionate and caring community.

I do not have any answers in this situation. And I can’t believe it is possible to say this but school shootings have been apart of my life since elementary school. I grew up in Colorado before I lived in Oregon. I was in elementary school an hour away from Columbine. It makes me sick just mentally ticking off the list of school shootings that I know of: Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, SPU, Reynolds. It has been 15 years between the first shooting on that list and the last two. 15 years and nothing has changed. 15 years and kids are still dying. 15 years and the problems haven’t been solved. Controls aren’t better, mental health services are not better. NOTHING is better if children are still dying.

Though I did read an article about how well SPU handled the aftermath of the shooting. I am glad we are learning how to live and grieve through these things. PLEASE read that with a sense dread and the taste of sickness in your mouth. It shouldn’t be possible to learn to handle these situations better. One was too many, and all the others are killing us.

But I don’t know any solutions. I am not a fountain of wisdom. All I have got here is profound sadness and the idea that we cannot antagonize someone for grieving or feeling a sense of loss. Maybe the Bitches are a club and they miss and love Jared. Somehow I doubt it. If you have another perspective, or any feedback please feel free to comment on the post or send me a message through my contact page. I would love to hear from you. This is an important discussion and I am open to hearing all view points.


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