When you read that opening sentence from the Denver Post’s now-headline story about a shooting in Centennial, Colorado that left one person in critical condition and another injured just now, what did you feel?
Unless you’re a parent of a high schooler, probably not.
Uncontrollable hatred? Unconsolable sadness?
Probably not those either.
We’ve read that sentence too often too recently for it to pierce us the way the reporting of the Colombine shooting did in 1999. In just 15 years, we’ve gone from asking, ‘How could this possibly happen?’ to ‘How long until this happens again?’ In those 15 years, we’ve pointed the finger at everyone and everything from Marilyn Manson to poor gun control laws to violent video games, and yet it’s continuing to happen to the point of numbing absurdity.
Somehow, graphic retellings of children being murdered have the same media shelf-life as the latest irrelevant gaffe made by a politician.
But that is where we’re at now.
When I tell you that a gunman shot two people at Arapahoe High School 8 miles east of that same Colombine High School and that at least one of them is a student who is in critical condition, you’re going to sigh heavily. A little piece of your heart might calcify a bit. You’ll wonder about the shooter, hoping facts will help alleviate the impotent frustration you’re feeling, and when you hear that his body was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, you won’t know whether that makes it better or worse.
You’ll spend the next few hours, maybe the next few days, learning more and more details about what went on that, in the long run, won’t really matter much. You’ll see the useless Facebook status updates from friends and family echoing how much of a tragedy this is. You’ll read articles that will have to mention that tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the Newton, Connecticut shooting and that this took place a stone’s throw away from possibly the most infamous school shooting in our history. You’ll understand that this a part of our national conscience now, but you’ll also understand that it will not be a part of our national conversation much longer.
You won’t know whether that makes it better or worse.