"Shocked and saddened." These were the words released to the media as the reaction from the mother of a teenage gunman who shot and killed his father and wounded two students and a teacher at a South Carolina elementary school. As a teacher and a parent, I can understand how that might be, but I also wonder if there are words in the English language to describe the aftermath of such an event. Tiffany Osborne gave the statement through a spokesperson as she joined the ever-expanding list of parents of teen killers. I would imagine that the unimaginable grief of such an event would leave me a babbling, gurgling mess, hence the need for a family spokesperson.
Now the rest of the saga will unwind, and the details of the relationships between parents and their teen killer will be examined and reported as if there was a way to make sense of the whole mess. We can expect more shock and sadness as the story is told. "If only" this and "why didn't we" that. We can only move forward with a profound sense of regret. And still we will look for words to describe what cannot be understood.
Terrorism? Sure, in that there was terror involved. On the part of the children who had the misfortune of being such a short distance from the rural home of the Osbornes. All the bad chemicals that exist in a young man's mind that somehow pin together shooting rampage and elementary school will never be comprehended. Just shot your dad? Why not drive on over to where the eight year olds hang out and bust off a cap or two? Not that a shopping center in Washington state makes any more sense. Or a movie theater. Or insert your favorite target-rich environment here.
Would it be a better planet if we could say, "I always expected something like this would happen. This kid was angry and in need of counseling for years. It doesn't surprise me in the slightest that he chose to take a life or two on his way to an institution."
It's those kids, the six year old who will someday be asked if he wants to go back to school, the place where you get to do art and have recess and learn to read and strangers shoot at you. It's the teacher who was doing her job and was probably up to settling a playground scuffle, but forgot to pack the Kevlar vest on the day the nut-job showed up.
Feel free to count the minutes before some clever ape announces once again that something like this never would have happened if teachers had been armed. Shocked and saddened, indeed.