On an April morning in 1999, Columbine High School in Colorado became the scene of a terrible tragedy.
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold laughed and hollered as they killed 13 people and wounded 20 others. Their innocent victims were their teachers and classmates. The teenage killers then turned their guns on themselves.
Some people blamed violent video games and music for their behavior. Others said bullying was the root cause. Others branded Harris a classic psychopath who manipulated his angry and insecure friend.
Some pointed the finger at America’s liberal gun laws. They said the Columbine massacre would have never happened if guns weren’t so freely available in the US.
America has more guns than any other country. It also has more public mass shootings.
Since 1973 not a year has passed without a fatality involving a gun on school grounds.
On a March morning in 2016, Pine Middle School in Nevada was also the scene of another school shooting.
At 9 am, a 14-year-old student fired three shots into a busy hall. The students ran, but two were shot.
The shooter, James Newman, was hell-bent on carrying out another Columbine. Yet he was stopped in his tracks. Not by a bullet. Not by a blow. Not by any last minute pangs of conscience. But by a hug.
Gym teacher, Jencie Fagan, walked through the doors of the cafeteria when she heard gunfire.
She saw the commotion and couldn’t believe what was happening. She knew Newman ‘pretty well’. They had enjoyed conversations together. She didn’t consider him an unhappy or problem student.
Fagan persuaded him to drop the weapon. She then hugged him until other teachers arrived.
Fagan explained, “… I hugged him, and I told him I wouldn’t leave him. I was just glad it was over, and no one was killed. And I was sad for him, because I know him….I knew at that point his life would never be the same again.”
Newman told police he had researched the Columbine massacre on the internet. He said he carried out the shooting because he was tired of being called ‘stupid’ by people. He used his mother’s handgun during the shootings. Newman was put under house arrest and given 200 hours of community service.
If not for the brave actions of Jencie Fagan things could have been a lot worse for everyone.
Stricter gun laws would prevent a lot of school shootings in the US, but more kind words, hugs, and understanding would go a long way as well.