It's the question on many the minds of many Americans today as we wrap our arms around the community of Chardon, Ohio, and try to come to some understanding about why these tragedies continue to happen.
As of this writing, three students have died as a result of a tragic school shootings at Chardon High School in Ohio. Two additional students remain hospitalized. And an entire nation is mourning.
Why do these tragedies continue to happen? As a parent, tragedies like these hit me square in the gut. No parent should ever have to bury his child. No parent should send her child off to school only to find out hours later that the child has been killed there.
During the inevitable slew of media interviews that came out of Chardon in the last 24 hours, someone inevitably made a statement the type of community that Chardon is — a small town where everybody knows everybody — and that "this is not supposed to happen here."
I couldn't help but notice a similarity between that statement and the statement made by a Facebook friend of mine. I asked Facebook friends, family and colleagues today if they had a hard time sending their kids to school (or going to school if they are kids themselves,) in light of the shooting.
G. Jones of Virginia responded: "I know it could happen anywhere but living in a small, low crime town makes me feel safe not only with my children in the school systems but also at stores, parks and anywhere outside."
We never think these tragedies are going to hit small, safe communities like Chardon, so why do they continue to hit there?
S. Thompson of Washington noted that as a nation, while we are shocked when these things happen, we don't necessarily draw the connection to our own communities. "I think we've become accustomed to the 'it didn't happen here so we're safe' mentality" said Thompson, adding "It's scary if you think about it so the truth is — we don't."
Of course, none of us want to live our lives in fear of a tragedy occurring at our child's school or anywhere else. But I think it is exactly when we stop thinking that these things can and do happen anywhere that we open ourselves up to tragedy.
No one yet knows the motive for Monday's school shooting, but one thing we do know is that it occurred when a 17-year-old boy brought a gun to school.
It has been 13 years since the shootings at Columbine High School brought issues like bullying and school violence to the forefront of discussion. After Columbine, dedicated school programs were initiated to get guns out of schools, help minimize school bullying, and to open lines of communication between school administrators and the students who may be able to report unusual behavior before it's too late.
This month, the federal government released the most recent Indicators of School Crime and Safety report. The most recent figures for the 2009-2010 school year showed school-related violent deaths were at an all-time low since tracking began in 1992.
But these same school programs have taken a serious cut in the last few years as each new budget cut forces school administrators to choose between bullying prevention programs and new textbooks.
I have no idea what kinds of programs were in place to prevent school violence at Chardon High School, nor do I know if any program existed that could have prevented such a tragedy. But I do know that we can never forget that these tragedies can and do happen all over this country. We can never stop trying to prevent them. We can never do enough to keep guns out of our kids' schools.
And we can never stop hugging our kids extra tight in the evenings to let them know that we love them.