Wednesday, January 21, 2015

There Is No Peace for the Wicked

Columbine by Dave Cullen was one of those books I was told educator's needed to read. I am usually not too crazy into non-fiction, which I feel I mentioned once before, but this one seemed different. I began my new job in a high school in CT in 2012, the same year the Sandy Hook Tragedy occurred.

School shootings have always been a hot topic, even before the tragedy in Columbine, but this was the one that shook the world. I remember being in middle school and being scared; this was the first time we as kids realized school was no longer a safe place. It took a part of our childhoods away because this was real, and we had to face that. I think that is why this shooting had such a huge impact. In reality, the Virgina Tech Shooting in 2007 took more lives and for more reasons unknown, but this one, Columbine, seemed to hit a nerve. After reading Cullen's book, I understand why.

Cullen takes the reader through the events of the shooting and all the way to ten years later. The parts regarding the shooting were expected: disturbing, sick, and hard to swallow. But, it also shows these two boys on another scale. The media, the police force, and the FBI were unsure how to handle this tragedy, so a lot of mistakes were made.

The warning signs were there for a year before the tragedy, the boys both had files on them, but no one even filed the reports. These two boys were troubled, but it was amazing how the media twisted the story into a fight against bullying, music, television, and anything else they seemed would fit. The boys were painted as loners, when in reality they were well liked; the fact that they were involved in this was a shock for their immediate family and friends. They warped details of what happened in the library to Cassie Bernall because it fit into the church's agenda and it was a better story than what the truth showed. The educator who was killed had a chance to live; the SWAT team took their time entering the building and despite the written warning out the science lab window, they still didn't get him out in time.

So many "facts" that were presented that April 20th were too quickly released; and once released it was next to impossible to pull them back. I think that's why I found this book so interesting; it made me mad to realize we, as a nation, were duped. We were led to believe this incident happened because of outlying issues, we were made to believe in heroes that did not entirely exist, and lives could have easily been saved if they were better prepared.

Cullen's piece weaves a story of the killers: two troubled boys who you can't help but feel a little sorry for. They murdered 13 people that day and this is a tragedy, but another tragedy is why they chose this as an out. Their families were left behind to pick up the pieces and dodge the hateful stares that often come along with being related to the killers. Cullen also expressed actual interviews and inspirational stories of the survivors. Most of these students, teachers, families are strong and remained strong throughout the entire tragic event. It was heartwarming to hear that these kids, the ones who went through this tragedy, might be the ones who are the most forgiving.

Columbine is an eye opening, to say the least. It shows the carelessness of the law enforcement, and it also shows how important it is to report incidents as they come. Although, files could go "missing" depending on the efficiency of the police. This story truly made me sad and angry. Sad because this hits close to home, being an educator. I can see anger and hate in my students, but never to that degree. I know I would try to keep them safe; to tell them I loved them, just like their Principal. I was angry because it could have been prevented. The boys had histories of violence, anger, and arrests; why was no one paying attention? Why did 13 people have to die that day?

I do recommend the book, and I do understand why educators should be aware of it too. We are in a profession that now is dangerous. Now, we see schools as a place where we need to try our best to stay safe because they aren't safe havens any longer. If this tragedy taught us anything, it is that we need to be more cautious. More laws are in place, police are better trained for these situations, and teachers are more aware. I know I always have a plan b in case locking down doesn't seem like an accurate means of escape.

It will break your heart, make you cry, but it will show there is some goodness; even if that goodness only lies in those most affected.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

All Those Who Wander Are Not Lost...

I am an English teacher and never fully was able to finish the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R Tolkien. I know, I am a disgrace.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was coming out in theaters and because I am a huge fan of the movies, I decided this was as good a time as any to pick up the series again. I started with The Hobbit years ago, but I was not fully convinced. To be fair, I did not give it much of a chance. Once the movie craze came out, I knew I had to reconsider. There is no way the movies could be so amazing the books were not.

So the journey from the Shire to Mordor began. Everyone knows the story; there is one ring to rule them all, Bilbo passes the ring to Frodo, his nephew, who now has to go on this journey to destroy it. Frodo's journey takes him out of the comforts of the Shire and into the deep unknown. Frodo and his fellow hobbits (Pippin, Merry, and Sam) encounter the Elves in Rivendale and are joined by Aragorn, Boromir, Gandalf the Grey, Gimli, and Legolas. They are dubbed "The Fellowship" and all nine begin their perilous journey to the depths of disaster. The goal is to destroy the ring so Sauron's power ends so his armies are stopped, and all of Middle Earth is at peace again.

Tolkien is arguably the best fantasy writer of all time. He created a world, not just an idea. This world is filled with different species, languages, geographical regions, and everything just fits so perfectly together. He weaves a story of adventure, survival, and courage.

Although I am not fond of Frodo's character, the rest of his company make up for his incompetence. Sam is one of the best friends anyone could ask for. Not only does he force himself on this journey because he longs to support his best friend, Sam proves his own bravery when all else fails. All of the characters find their own piece of courage, and yet some are tainted and overcome by the ring's force. Once "The Fellowship" disbands at the end of the first novel, the fight for Middle Earth truly begins, and it's filled with death, strength, fear, and love.
The novel does take time to go through, so this is by no means a quick read. His story and description take time and are meant to engross the reader into his world. I think that's why it took a while for me to get back into these novels. But, when you are having a rough day, these books are the perfect way to step in a realm of magic.
And yes, despite Hollywood forgetting to include certain pieces of the novels into the movies, they are extremely well done. And I truly think that Tolkien would be impressed with their masterpiece and the amount of joy they bring to viewers. I can honestly say whenever I am sad, I immediately turn to these movies for comfort. Worth the read, worth watching, and definitely a masterpiece all around.