today there was a shooting at a school

[UPDATE 28MAY2022:

1. I took the picture above. My daughter Tara is holding the cello while friend/mentor/professional cellist Laura Ritchie makes music real for Tara’s classmates. It was a beautiful moment. Now we all have to live with the possibility that a moment just like this can be destroyed in a sudden hail of gunfire.

2. Every Tuesday I email a newsletter with a hodgepodge of ideas, resources, and a link to my weekly blog post. Last week, when we all were confronted with the news from Texas, it didn’t feel right to send out the newsletter, or even a message about why I wasn’t sending it. Late that evening I sat down to write. Early the next morning I posted my thoughts here. Wherever you are in the world, whatever your feelings about schools, people, or guns, I hope this – and whatever else comes next in our lives – somehow brings us closer together.]


Today there was a shooting at a school.

At least 19 children and two teachers are dead.

We all saw it coming. The last mass murder was just a few days ago. The next one will be too soon. Maybe in your neighborhood store. At your neighborhood school. Or movie theater. Or house of worship.

23 years ago, Columbine shocked a generation. 23 years later, we know how the story goes. Law enforcement responds. Politicians warn against politics. Constitutional rights. Social media. Flags at half-mast. Mental illness. Moments of silence. Thoughts and prayers.

Meanwhile, the images keep coming. Photographs of smiling faces that will never say another word. Distraught parents begging for answers that will never come.

And what of the survivors, the classmates and siblings who saw what they saw, who know what they know, and who will now endure both the horrifying memories and well-meaning adults who try to make it all better? In a couple decades the alumni of this trauma will have children of their own. Some of those children may turn out OK. Others will be raised by scars that never heal, and the cycle will continue.

What of the teachers, who sat through the safety trainings and the live shooter drills to work for so little money and even less regard, only to die in a work environment where the vision statement says, “safe campus”?

Over the next few days countless people will make emotional appeals and cite statistics. Some of us will feel heard. Most won’t. Many will continue to call for change because we will continue to need it.

But right now, in the very moment that you read this sentence, the next shooter is shopping.

Maybe we can take a little solace in the idea that just a couple decades ago, this was all unthinkable. There was a time. So maybe, just maybe, if we stop yelling at each other for just a moment, we can reclaim a shared sense of reality. Something we can agree on. Maybe that agreement – something as basic as the idea that our babies and their teachers shouldn’t go to school to die bleeding in a hail of bullets – can be a start, an air bubble of sanity that will give us just enough room and time to figure out a way to survive this culture that somehow sped off the pier of civility and democracy and began to sink in a lake of cynicism, hatred, and violence.

Maybe this could be the last time anyone could ever write a first and last sentence so deeply horrible that I beg you to read it again and take it all the way in, to really sit with it and ask yourself if you – if any of us – deserve to live in a world where it is even possible to write this as nonfiction:

Today there was a shooting at a school.