“Dear places who have seen this before…”

Santa Clarita poem - Jilli Spencer


“Can you tell me how… Can you tell me how you got up?” These are the anguished words of Jilli Spencer, a survivor of the November 14 shooting at her Santa Clarita, CA, high school. “It was finally us,” she says. We heard similar expressions combining disbelief with resigned acceptance at other schools? But is this normal?


In the 46 months of this year, according a CNN report, there have been 44 school shootings. Of these, 32 have been at schools serving students from kindergarten through grade 12.  Enough. Last year, Time magazine used this powerful word to honor the efforts of five students who survived the Parkland tragedy. They fought – and continue to fight – to prevent other children and parents having to endure their ordeal. Just this August, Time used the word… again.


The two victims – a girl, 15, and a boy, 14 – were not just people of tomorrow, they were people todayPeople magazine told the stories of Gracie and Dominic – and those who love them. Let us always remember the names of Gracie Meuhlberger and Dominic Blackwell.

Outside, it was a beautiful, sunny, and crisp day. Inside the school in which I was working, an dark announcement came over the school public-address system. “The shooter is in the G wing. He’s wearing a clown mask….” It was just a drill. Just a drill? is this now a normal part of the school day, like pledging allegiance to the flag or eating revolting food in the cafeteria? Sandy Hook Promise brought this point home in a searing PSA this September. Caution: Some readers may find the contents disturbing.


I love you, Mom.

The (Deafening) Sound of Silence

Save the Children (Tim Spencer)

The message of this mural on a building in Philadelphia caught my attention for its raw power. The occasion may have been different, but the message is the same.


Monday, May 21. Mark this date. Only days after the shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas, residents and officials are holding a moment of silence in respect to the ten innocent people killedShamor v’ zachor – honor and remember. It’s the right thing to do. It’s what must be done.

May 21… 20 years ago. Before there was Columbine. Before there was Newtown. And Parkland. A student killed two others at Thurston High School in Oregon. Exactly 20 years ago….

Each of these shootings has shocked the nation… and the world. One of the most heart-rending moments was when Paige Curry, one of the students, was interviewed. “Was there a part of you that was like, ‘This could not happen at my school?’” Her response was direct and chilling. “No. It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always felt it would eventually happen here, too.” Was the shooting at Santa Fe “yet another shooting?” Are such tragedies becoming routine? Is this the new normal? “This is not normal and must never be accepted as such,” said Charles M. Blow of the New York Times.

After the silence, we cannot be silent. We must remember. And, more important, we must take action. And that will be the topic of columns to follow.