This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, April 28, 1999

April 28, 1999 - Columbine

Last night over dinner, a friend noted an irony in the Columbine tragedy. "Everyone responded with a call to prayer. Yet the one place you couldn't pray was school."

Others put their faith in statistics. Nationwide (according to the Denver Post), roughly 250 people have died as a result of school-associated violence since 1992. Until Columbine, the most people to die in a single incident was 5, in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

By contrast, according to a recent National Vital Statistics Report, in 1997 alone almost 2,000 children between the ages of 5 and 14 died in motor vehicle accidents. In the same year, 345 children died through homicide -- most often, and most startlingly, by people they knew, either at home, or in their immediate communities. Guess how many children died by their own hand in this age group -- 313.

Between the ages of 15-24, deaths by homicide were a staggering 5,793. By suicide, over 4,000 died. That's in a single year.

So by contrast, schools are relatively safe.

Overall, the evidence suggests that we don't do as well by our children as we should. But that problem reaches far beyond school walls.

In times of trouble, people look for causes. So the pundits trot out all the usual suspects. Guns were either too easy (for the children), or too difficult (for teachers), to come by. Hollywood action movies and shoot-'em-up video games have established a uniquely American culture of violence. The Internet, and even the local library, provides access to too much dangerous information. School officials failed to protect the innocent from bullying, or alienation, or smuggled weapons. Parents never noticed that their children were building pipe bombs in the garage.

But most Americans who have guns or watch action films don't become murderers. Any information is dangerous to someone who intends to use it dangerously. Schools are institutions of learning, not prison camps or psychiatric wards. And even the most caring parents miss things, make mistakes, and for their blindness and errors have their hearts torn from their breasts.

Here's what I believe: accidents happen. The students and teachers who died at Columbine, all the victims, had the soul- rending misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were not to blame.

But I also believe something I have yet to hear anyone else say about this black mark in our nation's history. Beneath the desperate quest for an explanation for Columbine lies a simple truth: two young men decided to kill.

Choice, free will: it lies behind the greatest evil and the greatest good in the world. We must remember that for every horror, every act of cruelty one human chooses to commit on another, there are countless, counterbalancing acts of kindness and compassion. That's why -- and how -- our species survives.

Sometimes we have no control over what happens to us. We do have control over how we choose to respond.

My own choices in the wake of Columbine are threefold: first, I'm going to send a donation to the Littleton Jaycees, who are sponsoring an UnDinner to benefit the Columbine High School Library. There is no event to attend, but the $10 donation will be used to help replace items in the library, the locus for much of the carnage on April 20. (Send your donation to Columbine High Library Fund, c/o the Littleton Jaycees, P.O. Box 1008, Littleton 80160-1008.)

Second, our library district will proceed with its plans to hold a groundbreaking for our new Highlands Ranch Library, on Saturday, May 1, 10 a.m., at the new library site. The right response to acts of destruction is to celebrate our choice to build.

Third, like many parents in Douglas County and around the globe, I will be holding my children a little closer for a long time to come.

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