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The Tragedy of Littleton, CO...
By: Carl 'Mike' Hardy
Apr. 28th, 1999

     April 20th, 1999 two high school kids went to school with only one thing on their minds...  Murder.  When the smoke cleared, twelve kids and one teacher were killed, and many more wounded.  The gun toting youths were dead of self inflicted wounds.
     I stayed home from work that day, it was my birthday.  I spent all day running around enjoying the beautiful day with my girlfriend, Karry. Never watching any TV that night, I never knew of the tragedy.  I found out about it the next morning on the way to work listening to the Mark and Brian show.  It kind of put a damper on an otherwise great birthday.
     I called my girlfriend to find out she was watching the news story on TV.  We talked about it for a little while and we mentioned her kids.  She remarked that she was afraid for them.  I admit I was kind of concerned as well.
     I wasn't necessarily concerned for their safety...  They both went to a really good schools.  I was worried about what to tell them.  How I would answer the questions they put to me.
     I spent the last week examining the news articles, TV reports, internet stories.  I heard the rumors and the theories.  I watched the thousands of people nationwide mourn the loss of so many innocent lives.
     What struck me as a major point was everyone trying to make sense of this nightmare.  Even I tried to rationalize the whole thing.  You try to place the blame on something...  Anything.  It's the government's fault.  It's the gun toting kids' parents' fault.  It's TV's fault.  Marylin Manson's fault.  Mortal Kombat's fault.
     Instead of trying to find blame on something, maybe we should all look to ourselves.  We should look inside ourselves.
     Let me tell you a story about my childhood...
     You see, I was a pimply faced Jehovah's Witness kid.  I was one of those kids that were verbally, sometimes physically, abused by other kids.  I was one of outcasts, the chastised and ostracized.  I remember the name calling, the jokes, the fights picked with me, the cruel demeaning stares.
     I couldn't talk to anyone.  My parents didn't understand.  They were Jehovah's Witnesses.  It was against the will of God to do things the other kids did.  They were worldly (infidels) and to be in league with them only led to wrong doing.  It was OK and often accepted to be persecuted because of the religion.
     It wasn't my religion, but, it didn't matter.  I had to follow it, because the family followed it.  I was forced to comply and thus, forced to endure the persecution.  I was forced to be an outcast.
     I remember sometimes wishing the kids hurting me would die.  I remember wishing I could kill them, to watch them die at my own hand.  I remember considering the soul cleansing act of laying waste to my school with a hail of bullets.
     Thankfully, I didn't.  But, I admit, I partly understand where those two kids were coming from.  Because, oh so long ago...  I was a lot like them.
     It took me a decade to heal from the pain that my childhood had inflicted on me.  It took me such a long time to make my peace with the hatred.
     The Army helped out a lot.  The Army taught me to be self reliant.  It taught me that no matter what your color, race, creed, religion, background, no matter what...  In combat, it doesn't matter.  Combat is indiscriminate...  Battle doesn't care if you're black, if you're Buddhist, if you're gay...  That's what the Army taught me.  In my unit, I lived closely with a black, a hick, a Puerto Rican, a Samoan, a woman.  We were all equal, there was no name calling, ostracizing...  That wasn't allowed because, in combat, it got you killed.
     However, I'm not above reproach.  There are still episodes were I feel anger and hatred for other people and cultures.  Where I'll crack jokes and stare condescendingly...  I'm only human, filled with human discriminations and hatred for what is unknown and strange.
     But, I know that if we are a little more understanding of each other.  If we treat each other with a little more dignity and respect.  If we talk to each other.
     The golden rule takes precedence here.  Put yourself in other people's shoes.  That guy you flipped off on the road.  The telesaleman you just chewed out and hung up on.  The retarded boy you just threw a spit wad at. The black man you just yelled that racial slur to.  Think about how they feel...  Then think about how they'd feel if you didn't do that to them.  Better yet, think about how you'd feel if instead they did that to you.
     I think that's the real key here.  To talk.  Communicate.  It what makes us better than the animals.  It what makes us intelligent.  We have to talk.  That's the only way we can understand each other.  None of us are mind readers.
     Kids, you've gotta talk to your parents, your teachers, your coaches.  You gotta tell them how you feel and what's troubling you.  Find someone to talk to.  There are so many resources for you to examine...  Many more than I had when I was young.  The Internet, the suicide hotline, a teen hotline, even a nearby police officer.
     Parents, you've gotta talk to your kids.  Understand what they're trying to tell you.  Understand their fears, their ambitions, their desires.  Understand that it's sooo important to be accepted by their peer group.  When you were a kid, it was no different for you.
     Husbands and wives, you've gotta talk.  Understand that you are both human and you make mistakes.  The toilet seats isn't going to kill you if it's up.  The kitchen doesn't have to be clean all of the time.  Dinner can be a little late.  Talk about your day...  Talk about your feelings...  Talk about your dreams.
     Employers and employees, you've gotta talk to each other.  Understand that work is indeed stressful and sometimes hard to live with.  Sometimes thing happen at home that effect work.  Sometimes deadlines at work can effect the home.  Learn about ways to reduce this stress.  Learn from each other.
     Maybe, today, when you read this article.  You can stop and take a look at yourself.  Like I did with myself on April 21st.  Talk with yourself.  Maybe, just maybe, later on if we treat each other with a little more respect...  We can avoid the nightmare in Littleton, CO from happening again.