School shooting. Two words that put American parents into a panic. We're primed to expect the worst. What happened at an all-boys parochial high school in Cincinnati, Ohio this morning was bad enough.
It isn't a story of mass casualties. Just one student at La Salle High School was injured, and so far cops say the investigation indicates he shot himself.
At press time, the school shooting's sole victim was still alive -- thank heavens -- and was rushed to a nearby hospital. There's no indication that threats were made against the school or that the other students are in any danger (or ever were).
This school shooting seems to relate to the tragedies at Sandy Hook, at Columbine, at Chardon, at Virginia Tech only in that there was a shooting and it happened in a school.
But I can't help but note the visceral reaction to the words "school shooting."
My stomach clenches. Tears start at the corners of my eyes. My fists began to form little balls. And all this comes before I begin to read the details. All this happened this afternoon before I learned the sad tale of a child who is now fighting for his life at a Cincinnati hospital.
What happened at La Salle is a tragedy of a different sort from those other school shootings. They're both heartbreaking, but comparing them is impossible.
That we even think to is a sad commentary on what has become of our society. We are a nation where school shootings are so commonplace that we're primed to expect something more of the Newtown variety than the equally upsetting but very different suicide attempt that authorities indicate happened in Ohio this morning.
It wasn't always this way.
I was raised before any of the tragedies I mentioned had come to pass. We had a rifle range in the basement of my school. Classmates drove onto campus with guns in the backseat of their vehicles. School and shooting were not words strung together in the way that they are now.
I miss those days.
When the gun in the rack in a pickup truck on school grounds wouldn't raise an eyebrow, forget the SWAT team.
When the news that a boy had shot himself inside a classroom would have made us wonder more about that poor child and less about the risk he posed to other kids.
What comes to your mind when you hear the words "school shooting"?
Image via alamosbasement/Flickr