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'Red Alert! Red Alert!'Marianne Skolek Salem-News.com
Words our children should never hear over a loudspeaker while in the safety of their school.
(MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.) - This past Tuesday at approximately 2:30 pm, I received a telephone call from my 15 year old grandson, Brian. "Nonie are you watching the news?" "No Brian - should I be?" Very calmly and with such maturity, he replied "There has been a shooting at our school -- don't worry we are all fine and in the bleachers in the football field." He was using someone's cell phone who was passing it from student to student so calls could be made to concerned parents. Most students had left their belongings and cell phones in their classrooms as they exited the school.
I put the local news on and sat and watched in amazement. Minutes from home, in a safe haven called Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, SC over 1,400 students had been evacuated from the school with their teachers and administrators. There was a heavy police presence surrounding the school. It was then that I heard sirens from the highway near our home. It was a very long two hours before I could drive down to the high school to pick Brian up. He had walked to a strip mall and called again from another cell phone to ask that I come for him.
There is a story here, but I am not going where others go in relaying the frightening few hours of Tuesday, September 21 at Socastee High School. Rather I'm going to write about our children being taught a valuable lesson and potentially preventing future tragedies. We all know our kids are very proficient in texting messages, My Space, Facebook and Twitter. The tragedy of Tuesday was that the 14 year old student who carried a gun to school and walked into the office of the School Resource Officer - PFC Erik Karney and fired the gun - had been using Twitter to document his plans..
Below are some of the postings on Twitter by a very troubled young teenager -
Sept. 21, 7:46 AM: Waiting for my ride. About to head to school. Not much longer.
Sept. 21, 6:04 AM: Alright, I'm past the point of no return. No turning back now. Excited, but also scared.
Sept. 21, 12:52 AM: Haha wow, this is ganna be so much fun (;
Sept. 20, 8:26 PM: Okay. So I've made this a situation so that no matter what, it works out in my favor.
Sept. 20, 7:02 PM: Me = scared. Loaded shotgun = 15 feet away.
Sept. 20, 6:46 PM: My dad's never yelled at me like that before. Considering suicide right now.
Sept. 20, 1:19 PM: Things are going great. Should have 6 or 8 pipe bombs and 4 molotov cocktails soon.
Sept. 12, 10:47 PM im ganna walk down the road and throw a molotov cocktail on your house and watch it burn to the ground, ash by ash!
Sept. 12, 3:44 AM My knowledge in bombs is getting better:) and for you smartasses, my bombs are actually deadly, not f - - - ing bottle bomb s _ _t.
Sept. 11 10:56 PM Blew up a pipe bomb and molotov cocktail with (I deleted name of person) today. And to all the people who think I'm ganna shoot up socastee, f _ _ k off. Will I ever get that chance I so desperately want???
The good news is that this troubled teen was a poor shot and when he fired the gun, it missed Officer Karney -- the bullet ricocheted off an object and shrapnel hit Karney. The officer was treated at a hospital and discharged to home within hours.
The frightening news is that our children and their teachers huddled in dark classrooms against a wall when they heard the words "Red Alert." They knew it was not a drill. I can't imagine what was going through their minds as they were transformed from a classroom setting to a "bunker like" setting. Shortly after the voice of a principal came over the loudspeaker -- in short phrases -- "fire exits" "fire exits". The evacuation took place and when outside the once "safety" of their school building, they were instructed to run to the football field and get into the bleachers.
After the evacuation and arrest of the shooter, the police found several pipe bombs throughout the school left by the teen. Fortunately, they never went off.
Could this whole tragedy have been averted? Parents are upset that metal detectors were in place in the school, but not in use because the process of scanning each student and their belongings -- as well as manning the scanning sites -- takes a lengthy amount of time and manpower. So the metal detectors are only activated randomly at the discretion of the principal. Would these scanners have caught this kid before Officer Karney's life was on the line? Or before the students, their teachers and administrators lived through a nightmare of hearing "Red Alert" and having to run for their lives? We'll never know.
What we do know is that My Space, Facebook and Twitter is followed by friend and foe alike -- I've heard it referred to jokingly as "legalized spying." The teenager responsible for not only cheating the students and staff of Socastee High School out of feeling safe in their own classroom setting, has also had his and his family's life changed forever.
If every parent, teacher, administrator, school official could some how reach kids and impress upon them that when they read any postings on these popular Internet sites such as was posted on Twitter by this troubled teenager, they go to a trusted authority figure and express their concern. It should never be construed as "betraying" a friend, but rather potentially saving lives. If one student reading these Twitter postings had approached an adult -- this nightmare at Socastee High School on Tuesday, September 21 would have been prevented. And our kids would never have had to live through "Red Alert" "Red Alert."
There were many heroes at Socastee High School on Tuesday when the words "Red Alert" blared through the loudspeakers into classroom. They were the 1,400 students who grew up very quickly in a matter of minutes and did what they were instructed to do maturely and calmly. They were also the teachers, staff and administrators who formed a human chain around the bleachers where our children were sitting -- in the ultimate act of keeping them safe from harm.
We are now left with what happens to a very troubled 14 year old boy whose cries for attention were not recognized by adults -- and whose "friends" reading his ramblings on Twitter -- did not want to "rat him out." There is a call for him to be tried as an adult for attempted murder -- with a life sentence in prison hanging over him. Are these same adults going to fail him once again by throwing him into the prison system? Or will a very troubled 14 year old boy be punished -- as he should be -- and treated psychiatrically in the hopes of becoming the viable adult we want all our children to be.
"One of irony's greatest accomplishments is that one cannot punish the wrongdoing of another without committing a wrongdoing himself. " ~Anonymous
Salem-News.com Reporter Marianne Skolek, is an Activist for Victims of OxyContin throughout the United States and Canada. In July 2007, she testified against Purdue Pharma in Federal Court in Virginia at the sentencing of their three CEO's who pled guilty to charges of marketing OxyContin as less likely to be addictive or abused to physicians and patients. She also testified against Purdue Pharma at a Judiciary Hearing of the U.S. Senate in July 2007. Marianne works with government agencies and private attorneys in having a voice for her daughter Jill, who died in 2002 after being prescribed OxyContin, as well as the voice for scores of victims of OxyContin. She has been involved in her work for the past 7-1/2 years and is currently working on a book that exposes Purdue Pharma for their continued criminal marketing of OxyContin.
Marianne is a nurse having graduated in 1991 as president of her graduating class. She also has a Paralegal certification. Marianne served on a Community Service Board for the Courier News, a Gannet newspaper in NJ writing articles predominantly regarding AIDS patients and their emotional issues. She was awarded a Community Service Award in 1993 by the Hunterdon County, NJ HIV/AIDS Task Force in recognition of and appreciation for the donated time, energy and love in facilitating a Support Group for persons with HIV/AIDS.
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