Monday, April 18, 2005

Black Smoke, White Smoke, Gun Smoke

I am off to Atlanta, to spend three days with the folks from the CDC, reviewing applicants' grant proposals on suicide prevention. I'm not certain what's going to happen while I'm away, but I am prepared for the coming days to be eventful. This next week will hold promises of some hopeful news and yet, too, of some events that hopefully will not occur, despite my sense of what might be.

The election of a new pope will be signaled with puffs of white smoke and ringing of bells, but this may be proceeded by days of black smoke as a divided conclave reflects the disputatious days in which we live. Who will be the twilight language's 111th Pope - "The Glory of the Olives" - Pope Gloria Olivæ?

Meanwhile, will April 18, Patriots' Day, technically exactly four weeks since the Red Lake school shooting, greet us with wondering for whom the bells will toll, as gun smoke drifts over a school campus? Or will April 19 (Waco and Oklahoma City bombing) or April 20 (Columbine and Hitler's birthday) be marked with violence again? Then comes April 21, the numerical and reflective "one month" from Red Lake's March 21. That might mirror what happened with Columbine's April 20, "anniversary" syndrome six years ago when a link to the symbolic month, not the technical one, occurred. It was on May 20, when six students in a Conyers, Georgia high school were wounded by a 15 year old shooter who put the gun in his mouth but didn't fire. No one died in the incident, thankfully.

People are taking seriously the whole idea that a copycat school shooting could occur. Already we are seeing the active intervention of people searching for signs as they surf the web to stop school shootings. The end of last week, a Cleveland salesman was credited by police in Asheville, North Carolina with foiling a possible rampage there. He authorities about the following message at a forum:
"I'm planning a Columbine on my dumb hippie school on the last day of school so everybody will be there to enjoy the Massacre," wrote the student with the screen name "Py." Later, he added, "I know where my dad's 12-gauge is along with his .45, .38 and his .22."

Meanwhile today, a San Diego County woman told law enforcerment of how she discovered through her granddaughter's Internet communications of messages mentioning the date of a threatened shooting being April 20th. Because of the date's link to Columbine, authorities took the threat seriously.

Everyone has their guard up for the coming smoke next week. I hope I return to Maine and only write of white smoke, not of gun smoke. The copycat effect's negativity does not have to happen if we use our awareness of it to prevent violence.

1 comment:

Sarge said...

Interesting blog. April 18-20 is a dangerous time these days...

http://charleypatton.blogspot.com/2004/04/survived-dangerous-days-of-april.html