The American Way

On May 1, 1992, I was showering with my bathroom window open.  I heard a police radio and immediately thought of the elderly neighbors next door.  I dressed quickly and ran outside.  I saw a police officer sitting in his car at the gas station across the street and talking on the radio.  My elderly neighbors were on their porch watching kids run toward us from the high school.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
One of the kids stopped and said, “There’s a shootout at the high school.  Mr. Brens is dead.”

The high school in question was Lindhurst High School in Olivehurst, CA.  I had graduated just three years prior.  My sister was a freshman there, now, and upon realizing that, my heart sank into my gut.

When I called my mom’s house and got no response, I remembered that she had taken my sisters out of school that day to go camping.  Everything that followed is a blur.

After shooting several people, Eric Houston, a member of my graduating class, corralled about 60 students who were still in the building into a classroom upstairs.  He held them for 10 hours before releasing them.

At that time, Olivehurst had a population of about 10,000 people.  Everyone knew everyone.  I remember walking around completely numb.  It seemed wrong that there were people going on with their lives.  I didn’t sleep that night, and in the morning, we got the tragic details.

Houston had walked into the building and murdered Robert Brens, his first teaching gig was as my senior civics teacher.  He murdered Judy Davis, a 17-year-old student in the same classroom. Houston then walked through the hallway outside the classroom and fatally shot student Jason White, one of my sister’s best friends, in the chest. Houston pointed his shotgun at another student, Angela Welch, but before he could fire his weapon, another student, 16-year-old Beamon Hill, pushed her to safety, taking a single fatal bullet to the side of his head.  Ten others were injured by gunfire, and a substitute teacher had a heart attack.

There was a horrible made for tv movie starring Rick Schroeder “based” on Lindhurst.  Rick played the murderer, and the jackasses who made the movie named him Jason.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were inspired by Houston’s example when they perpetrated the Columbine massacre in April of 1999.  I was teaching at Lindhurst on that day.  It was like living it all over again.

It’s been 30 years since my tiny community’s tragedy, but we relive it every time there is another shooting.

Everyone always asks why.  STOP IT!  There is nothing that can justify or even make sense of the murder of school children in their classrooms.

Names of the perpetrators, pictures, and if they’ve provided one, a manifesto get published, further glorifying the murderer.

“Oh, he was bullied.”  So were millions of other kids that year that did NOT commit mass murder.  Stop making celebrities of these monsters.  Stop trying to make them victims as well.  They chose their path, and the moment they pointed a weapon at a child and pulled the trigger, they lost all humanity.

I’m so tired of crying for other people’s children while people fight over gun rights.  Every time we make this political, we piss on the graves of murdered children.

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May 24, 2022

Nodding with you sadly.

May 24, 2022

I think I’ve written about me and Columbine many times and I just can’t do it anymore. It seems unfortunate that so many people can share stories that sound like this.