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Daycare shooting warning to heed

Summer vacation does not seem to have put an end to the violence and heartbreak that have plagued America’s school yards and classrooms this year.

Thursday, August 12, 1999

Summer vacation does not seem to have put an end to the violence and heartbreak that have plagued America’s school yards and classrooms this year.

This week’s shootings at a Los Angeles daycare center prove that the crazies are not restricted to ostracized teenage boys.

To analyze this incident and the recent shootings at some Atlanta brokerage firms as isolated acts of disturbed adults is to leave the door open to even more unprepared workplaces and school buildings.

This is not just crazy; this is environment and attitude.

Violence is a temporary shock these days. No matter how horrible the crime, there is one even more heinous and closer to home within 24 hours of every news broadcast.

With so many tragedies, society could easily fall into a false sense of "it can’t happen here." After all, the violence on television is fake and there are so many other crimes to worry about, preparing for something so unlikely seems like a waste of time.

Stories with this much impact leave a mark, but it is one that can easily be erased with the newest reports of other events, closer to home as well as the grind of daily life. Columbine High School might never forget, but unless parents, teachers and students work at it, the rest of us probably will file April 20 away as just a distant memory.

And that would be a mistake.

This summer’s tragedies prove that crazy doesn’t need teenage hormones to flourish. All it takes are access to a weapon, a grudge and a revenge fantasy fueled by unrealistic visions of glory.

To prevent another Columbine, Atlanta or Los Angeles, we have to pay attention, always. We have to watch for signs of trouble in teenagers, pick up on subtle clues from co-workers, family and friends and, if we see someone with a tendency, hear something that does not sound quite right, or just have a feeling about someone we are close to, we can’t just brush it off as silly.

We don’t have that luxury anymore.

Prevention means teamwork and a community that is aware.

Keeping tragedy away from home might be that simple.