Bad things happen every day. This is a simple fact of life, something that can’t be helped. And yet, tragedies seem so much worse when they happen close to home.
Even though I didn’t go anywhere besides home to good old Olmsted Falls, Ohio, for spring break, at times it seemed like I was in a totally foreign environment. Bad things happen but they shouldn’t happen in such close proximity. They shouldn’t happen to people I know, in places I’m familiar with.
Things like high school shootings and fatal car accidents are events that seem fictional – occurrences that are used as justification for emergency lockdown drills or parental warnings to put the phone down while driving.
But the scary thing is, this stuff happens every day. And it can happen to anyone.
It wasn’t even three days into spring break when I heard the news that a student brought a gun to Chardon High School, barely 30 minutes from my house, and unloaded a clip into a table of his peers. Three of them died after being lifeflighted to Cleveland Metro.
Hearing this news was unfathomable to me. My first thought was of the family my mom knows who lives there, and though their children graduated from high school even before I did, this will change them forever. I can’t imagine something like this happening at my alma mater.
People from Ohio know that Chardon isn’t exactly in a stereotypically dangerous urban setting. It’s not that large of a community. It seemed impossible that something like this could have happened. But the undisputed fact remained that three lives were taken.
Seeing the name of a familiar school splashed across the headlines in the following days instead of one I have never heard of made a huge difference in the way I perceived it. The best way I can describe it is that it actually seemed real, for once. A hefty reality check.
But reality wasn’t done dealing its blow to northern Ohio. And this one would hit even closer to home.
Just days later, five students from Bowling Green State University, a school I’ve visited numerous times to see friends, were in a fatal car accident. Three of them were killed; two are still in critical condition. They were on their way home for spring break when a 69-year-old woman driving the wrong way on the highway hit them head-on. Authorities said there was nothing the driver could have done.
At first it seemed like just another tragedy to compound the week’s already surreal events. Then the names of the girls were released. One of them was an ex-girlfriend of one of my closest friends. I’d only met her a couple of times, but the fact that I could put a face to the name and a name to the death was brutally chilling. Calling my friend to talk about what happened was worse. He was understandably shaken – he just kept saying how nice her parents were.
But the outpouring of support for both the Chardon and Bowling Green communities from across the state, and nation, was sobering. Even after my faith in the human race was tested that week, it was reaffirmed by the way people banded together in the face of these losses. It doesn’t change the fact that six young lives were lost last week, but it certainly is a testament to a community I’m proud to be a part of.