February 11, 2010

Why we Remember

In April of 1999, my little brother was a senior in high school. One afternoon as I ran around town doing errands the news broke in and reported a high school shooting. My heart froze as I listened to the details of the story unfold. My brain shouted, “What school, what school, what school?” The news reporter finally said, “Columbine High.” Is it wrong that my heart started to beat again? Is it wrong that I took a deep breath and thought, “Thank Goodness?”

The massacre of Columbine High continued to be the top news story for weeks. Unbelievable stories of faith, courage, and sadness followed. The country mourned the loss of lives and we questioned repeatedly. “How could this happen?” “Why did this happen?” Some of us breathed deep sighs of relief that at least it did not happen to us.

Today, I was working with a sixth grade group and we were discussing authors. Each of the students is doing a report on an author of their choice. All of them decided that a good question to research was the author’s inspirations. One of my students chose Scott Westerfeld. I happen to be a big Scott Westerfeld fan so I was paying attention to her research. She decided to research the inspiration of Scott Westerfeld’s series Midnighters. She quickly found on Westerfeld’s site a quote from Westerfeld saying his inspiration for Midnighters came from the Columbine Massacre.

My student had been reading aloud and when she read the inspiration of the story she asked, “What is the Columbine Massacre?” The question caught me off guard. How could she not know about the Columbine Massacre? How could she get to 12 years old and not know about the dangers that lurk in this world? How could she not know about all the innocent children who lost their lives on that day?

With as much calm as I could muster, we started talking about the events of Columbine. We even discussed how old they were when it happened. Some of them were not born others were tiny babies. We talked about the judgments that followed. Soon they were discussing similar events in their own memories including those at Fort Hood. A part of me wished the conversation had never even started. Who wants to remember horrific events?

As we finished our discussion and we were cleaning up my student said, “I think the point of the story is not judge.”

In complete innocence, she answered my question; we remember these things so that we learn. Learning is not always pretty but necessary if we are to become better.

Prayers and Hugs,

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