In the midst of shock and sorrow, there is bewilderment. The mass attack this week at a suburban Pittsburgh high school — in which 21 students and a security guard were injured, stabbed, or slashed, including three critically — leaves a host of unanswered questions. While the shrieks and sobs still echo, all the questions boil down to one: Why?
What possessed the suspect, 16-year-old Alex Hribal, to attack students before classes had begun? Why did he use two 8-inch kitchen knives? Why did this rampage occur at a school that until then had seemed as safe as any other?
More profound still, what explains the mass violence that stalks America’s schools, this example different only in its horrific details? Some answers should come over the next few days.
They will provide a guide to answering perhaps the ultimate question: Can such a terrible event be avoided, or are all children in America involved in a deadly game of chance, just potential random victims in a violent society?
Parents and the wider society want to have their fears alleviated. Into the vacuum left by the absence of facts will come theories, often informed by political thoughts not imbued with wisdom.
Some will say: See, they want to ban guns — now they will have to ban knives. And someone else will say: Thank God this kid didn’t have guns; 20 people might be dead. And so it will go, on and on.
But now is not the time. Now we must praise the assistant principal who tackled the suspect, and the student who helped him.
We must applaud another student who applied pressure to contain a friend’s wound, and the unidentified person who pulled the fire alarm amid chaos. More actions by the school’s staff and students, as well as emergency responders and medical personnel, will come to light, showing courage and duty under pressure.
A community was attacked and a community rallied to the challenge, and that is cause for hope at the end of an evil day. It is a time for prayers, for the wounded and for greater understanding.