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Shooter’s declaration remembered

May, 21, 1998, seems like little more than a distant memory for those who have been following the rise of school violence in America’s schools.

Sunday, September 26, 1999

May, 21, 1998, seems like little more than a distant memory for those who have been following the rise of school violence in America’s schools.

Sometimes matching the names with the locations and remembering the number of classmates who lost their lives can be difficult as the parade of tragedies continues.

This week, justice was done for those who died at the hands of an Oregon high school student that May week almost two years ago.

Kip Kinkel took a gun, killed his parents and then sprayed his high school with bullets, killing two classmates and wounding 26.

He has signed a plea bargain that will put him in jail until he is 42 – 25 years.

Kinkel’s lawyers tried to convince him to plead to a form of mental incompetence, which he refused. He said he made the decision to go to the high school. Once he killed his parents, he said, he had to "go all the way."

Chilling isn’t it.

When the verdict was announced at Kinkel’s high school, some wanted to know more and some just wanted the memory to go away. But forgetting completely is not an option, not if Americans don’t want to mourn anymore teenagers lost to senseless acts of violence by their schoolmates.

As long as there are students who can explain away a murder with such conviction, there is a great need to talk about why they are turning to violence and what society can do to help.

When the discussion stops and the horror is forgotten, that is the time when the past will be repeated.

Silence and shame are what helped get the Kinkel family into this mess. They couldn’t find a place to go to get help. They had no one to turn to when they met roadblocks in treating their son.

And there weren’t too many people for the disturbed teen to turn to, either. There is only so much a school can do.

Forgetting will not keep another Kip Kinkel from opening fire on his classroom. Working together diligently as a community to identify and help these troubled families is the only way to turn memories into action that could save a life.

We owe that to every teenager who died many years too young.