Yesterday’s tragic violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is the nation’s third-deadliest school shooting in history – and the 7th such shooting in 2018 alone.
Sadly, we’ve grown familiar with the awful rhythm of these barbaric events.
First comes the text alert on our phone or we hear about the horror on social media. Or maybe we learn of it from the lament of a friend or a co-worker.
Before we ask “How could this happen?” we instinctively ask “How many?”
Of course, we intuitively know that even one is too many, and that behind every number is a name of someone who means the world to someone else.
And so after the numbers we see those names – and the photos of those killed. They’re almost always smiling – bright, cheery, ready to tackle tomorrow – a tomorrow that’s been stolen from them in a moment of senseless terror. We see their faces and we think of our own children.
He looks like my son. She reminds me of my daughter.
The sorrow quickly turns to anger.
Who did this?! Why?! How can we stop it from happening again?
We try and piece together the motive behind the madness. We’re told a name. A few details emerge. There were warning signs – but every seemingly strange person doesn’t kill someone.
And so the blame game begins.
Some immediately blame the guns. Others cite violent video games, broken homes and broken lives. Mental illness is usually suspected and often present. Then there is the possibility of the presence of evil.
Amidst the blame game, I am reminded of something Dr. Tim Keller once said years ago and not at all associated with the tragedy that is the current wave of school shootings. Nevertheless, I think the logic applies.
He said how someone responds to the issue of depression – in them or another person – says a lot about their worldview.
- If you’re all about the “physical” side of life, you think the person should just pop a pill.
- If you’re all about the “psychological” side of life, you think people should just talk it out.
- If you’re all about the “spiritual” side of life, you think people should just pray more, read more of their Bible, confess more sins.
In reality, God made us multi-dimensional, and while all those solutions may be valid, they’re rarely valid alone.
So what motivated this Florida gunman is likely layered and complex. It’s tempting to try and boil it down to a single issue. It’s just never the case. We know that he was adopted – and that both of his adoptive parents had died, his father over ten years earlier. Was the father the stabilizing force in his life, the one who kept his son from trouble? We know fathers are vitally important. So are mothers. We know there were signs, terrible ones, even – the FBI had been notified.
We’ll learn more in the sad days to come.
Stories of the sacrificial heroes are emerging today – a big, burly assistant football coach named Aaron Feis and the schools athletic director named Chris Hixon.
Both men are being credited with throwing themselves in front of the bullets, shielding students from the gunfire.
Both men died so that others might live.
The school’s head football coach, Willis May, said Coach Feis was a “Big ol’ teddy bear.” He described him as “Hardcore — he coached hard. Real good line. He did a great job with the [offensive] line. He took pride with working with those guys. Loyalty — I trusted him. He had my back. He worked hard. Just a good man. Loved his family. Loved his brother. Just an excellent family man.”
Aaron Feis had graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 1999. He came back as a football coach in 2002 and led the junior varsity team for eight seasons.
Chris Hixon was also a wrestling coach. He previously served in Iraq as a U.S. naval reservist.
And so amid all of the heartache there are the heroes.
It doesn’t make it any easier, but it is always inspiring to learn of the bravery and courage of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the midst of tragedy.
Please join me in continuing to pray for these families whose lives have been turned upside down. Indeed, the Lord “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).