School shooting in Florida: “It’s supposed to be a safe place”


The image is one I’ll never forget: a woman with an Ash Wednesday cross on her forehead holding another woman as they grieve together. The picture was taken on one of the holiest days of the year for many Christians. It shows that, no matter how sincere our faith, none of us is immune from tragedy in this broken world.

Here’s what we know this morning: a shooter opened fire yesterday afternoon at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, fifty miles north of Miami. At least seventeen people have died; fourteen others were wounded, five of whom suffered life-threatening injuries.

The suspected gunman, nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz, began shooting outside the school, then barged inside. According to Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, he “set off the fire alarm so the kids would come pouring out of the classrooms into the hall. And there the carnage began.”

Cruz was taken into custody nearly two hours after the shooting was reported. He is a former student who had been expelled from the school for disciplinary reasons.

Jay Golden, whose daughter Rachel survived, told reporters, “You put your kids in school and it’s supposed to be a safe place and this stuff happens all the time.” Sadly, he is right: yesterday’s tragedy was the eighteenth school shooting so far this year, and it’s only February.

“Compassion fatigue” and endurance

When you heard the news from Florida, what was your first response?

If you’re old enough to remember Columbine, I’m sure you remember the unspeakable shock we all felt. When news broke yesterday of the shooting in Florida, the response was different. Reaction was somehow more muted. It seems that we have grown numb to such horrors, resigned to continued assaults on our schools and society.

Counselors refer to this as “compassion fatigue.” This condition is so common in our culture that a “Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project” has been created in response.

Such stoicism is a natural…

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