Scott Reeder | A responsibility to protect our children

Scott Reeder | A responsibility to protect our children

SPRINGFIELD — Sunday night, I watched my daughters pack up their book bags and get ready for their first day of school.

It's an annual rite of August in the Reeder household and many others. I've never quite understood how my girls can have so much fun shopping for school supplies and sneakers, but still dread the first day sitting at their desks.

A bit past midnight, just hours before classes were to begin, our 7-year-old, Caitlin, said she was suffering from "chest pains" and wanted to know if she could sleep snuggled between my wife and me.

We told her to crawl in and held her tight. The chest pains disappeared.

I just wish all aches could go away as easily as Caitlin's.

Before I became a parent, I didn't know my capacity to love — or to hurt.

Last month, I was in Santa Fe, Texas, working on a story on a school shooting that claimed the lives of 10 people and wounded 13.

A lone gunman armed with a shotgun and pistol entered a classroom and began firing bullet after bullet, shell after shell, at his classmates and teachers.

Such senseless violence has become all too common. A sad fact of life is that evil exists in this world. There are no easy solutions to end it. But that doesn't relieve us of the responsibility to try.

I make no apologies for the person who committed this crime. He needs to be punished for his actions. And I'm confident that he will be.

But that is little solace for Rhonda Hart, who lost her 14-year-old daughter, Kimberly, on that fateful May day. I sat with Rhonda and her father and we talked about their loss. Tears welled in our eyes as we tried to make sense of the senseless.

As I watched my girls pack their bookbags and gripe about summer vacation coming to an end, I thought about Rhonda and the other Santa Fe families who were missing their children. What wouldn't they give to hear those complaints one more time from their own children?

I wondered: Is there hope in this world of sadness?

But then I thought of a young woman I met named Sarah Salazar. She refuses to hate.

Sarah hid in a classroom closet with her frightened classmates as the gunman fired shotgun blast after shotgun blast through the door. Shrapnel ripped through her body to a point that emergency personnel working the scene initially thought that she, too, had perished.

And then they saw her eyes move.

After many surgeries in Houston hospitals, Sarah returned to her modest home to recover. I spoke with her there. The 16-year-old was self-conscious about her scars but optimistic about her future.

The honor roll student talks of someday being a physician or a nurse. Never once did I hear her complain or ask why she fell victim to this random act of violence.

Sarah returned to school on Monday.

Her generation gives me hope.

Is our generation up to the responsibility of keeping that hope alive?

Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist. He works as a freelance reporter in the Springfield area and produces the podcast 'Suspect Convictions.'

Sections (2):Columns, Opinion