Near the end of my very first newspaper internship, at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, my editors assigned me a breaking news story I’ve never forgotten.
They sent me to a suburban neighborhood where a teen-aged sniper was holed up in his family home. When I arrived at the scene, police had cordoned off the neighborhood. Swat teams were in place to take out the young shooter if he continued to fire off rounds, posing a clear and present danger to those living in proximity to his home.
After some time passed, and the troubled teen sprayed no more bullets, the SWAT team rushed the house. After a few minutes, they summoned an EMS team to remove the young shooter’s body from the house.
As it happened, he had turned the gun on himself and taken his own life.
I am reminded of that experience as I follow news coverage of today’s school shooting in the Cleveland suburb of Chardon, Ohio. An FBI source told the Associated Press that the shooter, believed to be a student, opened fire inside the Chardon High School cafeteria, wounding five of his classmates.
The teen-aged suspect was apprehended a half-mile from the school and is now in police custody.
What explains the frightening rash of school shootings over the past decade and a half, since the Columbine massacre (in which 12 students at the Colorado high school were killed and another 21 injured) shocked the nation?
I used to subscribe to the theory advanced by Anna Freud, the child psychologist, the daughter of Sigmund Freud, who posited that adolescence actually is a period of temporary insanity.
Anyone who has reared a teen-ager might be inclined to agree.
But, since Columbine, in 1999, Santana High, in Santee, Calif., in 2001, Red Lake High, in Minnesota, in 2005, Essex Elementary, inVermont, in 2006, Larose-Cut Off Middle School, in Louisiana, in 2009, Millard South High, in Omaha, last year, and, now, Chardon High, I am persuaded there is another, more malevolent, explanation:
Evil. The darkness of this world. Spiritual wickedness.
We are all, regardless of age, subject to those ungodly forces. But it seems that adolescents – already dealing with hormonal changes, with body transformation, with the first flowering of romantic feelings and sexual urges, with fitting in with their peers – are particularly susceptible.
Parents can help only so much. What their teen-aged children need is a faith life. They need the kind of support that Christian youth groups provide at churches in communities throughout the country.
But most of all, they need the intercessory prayers of those who love them, who care about them – family, friends and others who will petition the Almighty to maintain a hedge of protection around the young person that cannot be penetrated by the unseen demonic forces that influenced the shootings today in Chardon.