GUEST EDITORIAL

June 1, 1999

From Littleton, Colorado, I write to tell you that this community is contorted with grief. Complacency is no longer an option. Recognize that we have a problem. Recognize that this killing will happen again, perhaps to your child, before we find the means and the will to make it stop. And then act on that recognition, that our suffering will not have been in vain.

GUEST EDITORIAL

Jump to:Choose article section...The Columbine shootings: A call to arms

The Columbine shootings: A call to arms

On hearing the first reports, I stepped outside our office and lookedacross the gully to Columbine High School, feeling numb and powerless. Studentsshooting students was no longer an abstraction: It was now our communityshattered, our kids under attack.

I spent the evening comforting my teenage daughter, a freshman at a neighboringhigh school. "These were kids, just like me," she said, her facefrozen in horror. Through supremely poor timing, a "senior prank"had emptied her school and brought the bomb squad, hours before the slaughterat Columbine. "Dad, it's a conspiracy," she sobbed. "I knowit. I'm afraid to go back to school. Don't make me go." How could Iassure her of her safety? How do I make it all better?

What shall we do, this time? How shall we pediatricians respond, we whohave made the well-being of children our highest priority? From the frontlines, struggling to make sense of the carnage, here are one pediatrician'shumble insights:

* Let the terror of this latest massacre seep into our bones. If we willconfront the hellish pain inflicted by these two teens, it will be harderto turn away from our responsibility. Think of the kids interrogated bytheir killers--"Are you a jock?" "Do you believe in God?"--andthen murdered. Think of the wounded, still hospitalized with life-alteringwounds. Think of the survivors who witnessed the murder of their friendswhile the murderers whooped and laughed. Think of the teacher who bled todeath in his students' arms, after his heroic efforts to protect them. Thinkof the policeman who heard his son's plea from a storeroom come over hispager, "Dad, we need you!" and then begged his SWAT comrades invain to give him a submachinegun so he could enter the school. Try to imaginethe bitter circumstances that, over time, twisted the minds of the killers.And then think of the families, and the medical personnel, and the countlessothers traumatized. When we appreciate the magnitude of suffering, can westill wait for the next time and do nothing?

* Become better parents. Here is where the effort begins. Let us eachrededicate ourselves to being there, with and for our children,particularlyasthey grow older. As they become teens, they need us more, not less. Letus find and correct instances where we are leaving our own preteensand teenagersunsupervised, exposed to influences that glorify violence,cruelty, and mayhem.Let us model kindness and forbearance, especially toward those who seema bit different from us.

* Reach out to other children in our communities, for being a good parentis not enough. We must see to it, as a community, that each child and adolescentfeels important, respected, and cherished. Many of us already participatein a local endeavor that provides mentoring, but too many of us do not.Pediatricians should set the example. Let us each find an existing effortthat we can join, or create a new one and recruit our neighbors.

* Participate actively in the gun control debate. If you have been standingon the sidelines, as I have, then let this bloodbath be your final wake-upcall. This debate needs more voices; it has been polarized for far too long.We owe our children and ourselves a sane and effective approach to gun control,one that has not yet been crafted, one that I believe we can conceive andeffect if we will each contribute to the debate. We must let our legislatorsand our jurists know that this agenda is no longer owned by special interests.

From Littleton, Colorado, I write to tell you that this community iscontorted with grief. Complacency is no longer an option. Recognize thatwe have a problem. Recognize that this killing will happen again, perhapsto your child, before we find the means and the will to make it stop. Andthen act on that recognition, that our suffering will not have been in vain.

Bob Mauro, MD
Littleton, CO

Bob Mauro, MD, practices pediatrics at Greenwood Pediatrics, Littleton,CO. With him here are his wife Ann, his daughter Hadley, and his son Philip.