It’s been enough years now that they don’t think about it every day anymore. The nightmares return every March since 1998 because there is no way a day like that can ever be erased.
A mass murder of four innocent young kids and a teacher…nine others were shot that day. Over the years those physical wounds healed.
It was Jonesboro, Arkansas, 1998.
I spent weeks in Jonesboro covering that story. I met some of the most caring, compassionate families during that time. It too was a small community that rallied to put their arms around the students of Westside Middle School, families who lost loved ones and the town as a whole that sank into sorrow and depression over the quiet little place, they called home, that was now on the map, designated by this disgusting act.
The town held vigils, churches opened their doors and the people walked-in, looking for guidance and any explanation that would help them understand how an 11-year old and a 13-year old, armed with hand guns and semi-automatic weapons, could shoot to kill, friends.
Teddy bears and candles turned into memorials and at that time, school shootings were new to this country, so along with saddness there was shock that this kind of act would happen in this country.
Sadly, since then, we’ve witnessed too many repeat performances.
So I wasn’t surprised when I got a text this weekend from a woman in Jonesboro, I’ve stayed in touch with over the years. I met her in the parking lot that day, 14 years ago, as she hugged and held her little boy who had tried to protect his classmates from the bullets that day. The memories, the horror had come back in waves.
That little boy is now the father of a beautiful little girl and my friend, in the running to be one of the best grandmothers of all time, in-part because of what she has experienced. She appreciates how fragile life is…14 years ago, she learned that lesson in a flash.