The time is just before noon on April 20, 1999 and the teachers and students of Columbine High School are going about their business as they would any other day. In fact, it is just that; any other day in Littleton, Colorado.
April 20, 1999 was not an ordinary day for two students Columbine High. Tragically this day would become one of the darkest days for domestic terrorism in our Nation. It would also become the day the parents of thirteen children dread…the day their children were killed.
Can anyone remember the act of domestic terrorism at Columbine High School way back in 1999? In case you’ve forgotten let me give you a review.
Two juvenile students of Columbine walk into the school that late morning after killing two students at the entrance. The offenders continue to fire-at-will killing another 11 people and wounding over 160. The semi-automatic guns were not the only weapons of the day. These juvenile home-grown terrorists deployed or possessed over 100 incendiary and explosive devices in an anti-personnel fashion.
Nobody saw it coming. Nobody was ready.
But, that can’t happen here. Dozens of firefighters and paramedics tell me so every month.
Fast forward to January 31, 2006 were we find the first two of three events that underscore our vulnerability to such events. A student of Webster Shcroeder High manages to get a small caliber handgun into the school with a population of 2000 students. He’s caught and peacefully disarmed of the gun and the knife he had hidden in his locker. On that same day at 7th grader at Geneseo Middle School is arrested for compiling a “hit list” from his 536 classmates and attempting to conceal a “fake” bomb.
Editors Note: Don’t let the term “fake” fool you. “Fake” bomb is just another name for one that will not go off. There is a fine line between a bomb that fails to detonate and one that is a “fake”.
February 2, 2006; the 840 student population of Franklin High School in Rochester, NY in lockdown mode, reportedly a student has a loaded gun.
January 31 and February 2, 2006. Two days just like any other.
Here we are nearly seven-years after the Columbine High School attack. Are we better prepared for such an eventuality here?
We’ve broken our collective arms patting each other on the back at various simulations of chemical attacks and aircraft crashes. We’ve written for grant dollars and purchased shinny trucks. So, we must be prepared. Aren’t we?
The sad fact is that we are not prepared. For all the hard work and planning that goes into planning a full-scale functional exercise, many of the lessons that should be taught and learned simply aren’t. We’ve failed to glean all we can from these training sessions because they are WMD or hazardous materials or airplane crash scenarios…not school shootings.
We have to shift our focus to training in the all-hazards mindset. The commonalities among these large-scale events; mass casualty, haz-mat and so on, can be translated to almost any situation.
Can anybody remember April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School? The lessons that should have been learned from that day at Columbine were lost just as the lessons from Y2K, SARS, and any number of natural disasters have been.
Our response community suffers from the worst preparedness shortfall; we still think that the worst thing that we’ve ever encountered in our career is the worst thing that will ever happen…
Just remember; it can’t happen here.
Franklin H.S. lockdown: http://www.13wham.com/news/local/story.aspx?content_id=52F7165B-88D2-4322-A360-F839E5F5F446
Geneseo student “hit list”: http://www.13wham.com/news/local/story.aspx?content_id=1DF9C978-6764-4009-B733-9CDC331ECC3A
Webster student brings gun: http://www.13wham.com/news/local/story.aspx?content_id=66946445-AD9E-45E7-9D2F-29DB9C59A915