I haven’t yet written anything regarding the heartbreaking events that occurred at Chardon High School, nor will I have any more after this. This is not a blog about current events or politics or my opinions on either – there are plenty of those already. While these topics are certainly important, they also tend to be very divisive. My aim is to keep things on the lighter side, and there’s not much to argue about regarding food and gardening (although if you have a problem with the way I grow my tomatoes, let me know). But for something this close to home, I wanted to say something. However, rather than get into the actual events, which could lead to all kinds of debating on multiple topics, I’m just focusing on the aftermath.
For those not familiar with the area, I live about 15 minutes from Chardon, born and raised in Geauga County. My cousin is a senior at the high school, and we have several friends at church that also reside there. The phrase about “it’s never going to happen to me” or “us” or “here” of course rings true in this situation. Coming from a quiet town in rural America, there’s not usually much going on – the extent of the police blotter is a DUI and maybe a dog on the loose. Everyone is totally caught off guard when something of this magnitude happens, but that being said, I can’t say that I was completely shocked. I think we’ve been desensitized (sadly) to the point where I’m not sure what would truly shock me – surprised, certainly, but utter disbelief? I’m not so sure.
It’s all very sad and disturbing, and still almost surreal. But in the midst of all this negativity, I have been struck by how much goodness has risen up to counter it. Seeing the way that the surrounding communities were galvanized in their support of the victims, families, schools, and the town itself. Driving down the road and seeing red ribbons on trees, signs in front yards, and flags at half-mast at police stations, libraries, other schools, and even private residences. Hearing at the press conference the teacher and coach who described how he talked to and prayed with the young men after chasing the shooter away. The numerous church services and vigils in the days following. Stories of support from the towns closer to home, from Greater Cleveland, and worldwide. The school receiving thousands of cards to line the halls with. Seeing students from neighboring schools greeting the Chardon students on their first day back. Reading about members of the opposing team wearing Chardon t-shirts during warm-ups for a playoff basketball game. The feelings of hope, love, faith, and inspiration that so many people projected, as if by sheer will alone, we could force the dark away. The feeling that it was more forgiveness, rather than anger, that was being directed at T.J. Candles lining the street of one of the affected families. One of our friends talked about the younger brother and sister of Danny walking the neighborhood, handing out chocolates and thanking everyone for their support.
These are only the few that I’m aware of – I know there are many, many more instances. And each of these has, at least once, brought tears to my eyes, as a result of both the sadness but also the hope.
Nobody wants these things to happen. Nobody is prepared for them. But through it all, I’ve been utterly blown away and inspired by my fellow men and women. For all the bad news that we are bombarded with on a daily basis, we hear little of the beauty that comes in the aftermath, whether it be this, or the recent tornadoes, or a house fire. To experience it so close to home gives me hope, that, although it seems like we’re divided and angry, we are all still neighbors, Americans, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and can put everything trivial aside and come together, staring into the face of the darkness before us.