Earlier today, the son of a police detective opened fire at Millard South High School in Omaha, Nebraska, wounding the principal and assistant principal and traumatizing an entire student body before taking his own life. It’s just the latest in a long and tragic line of school shootings which seem to now occur with ever increasing frequency.
The suspect, 17 year old Robert Butler Jr., had just transferred from a Lincoln high school this past November. In a rambling and profane Facebook post, Butler warned that people would see the “evil” things he had done. He blamed his new school for pushing him to violence.
I happened to catch an AP account of the disturbing story on my wife’s laptop shortly after I got home for the day. It was the last piece of news I digested before bath time. My stepdaughter was at her dad’s house which left my wife and I with only our triplets. She gave two of our trio a bath in our bathroom, while I took the third upstairs to his bathroom to get clean.
He must have wondered what was wrong with me. All I could do was look at him with a vacant if not eerie stare while pondering the innocence that still envelopes him. My well loved boy looked back at me with a sad smile accompanied by an ever-so-slight look of confusion.
“What are you doing, Daddy?”
“I’m just looking at you, buddy,” I answered, my eyes never leaving his impossibly brown ones.
The truth was, I wasn’t sure. There are some things which simply can’t be explained. They can be reported, just like Carolyn and Meredith reported the shooting at Millard South High. But they can’t be explained. Like why Butler did what he did today.
My son loves to play with bath toys. He’s really into this set of foam figurines that stick to the side of the tub when slightly wet and tonight he did a wonderful job assembling the squishy pieces that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. He had built a road. Slightly above the road, he decided he needed vehicles. Of the countless from which he had to choose, he selected only two.
A school bus and a police car. After looking at his creation for a moment, he carefully placed a stop sign between the two.
Random? Maybe. Probably, even.
“I’m going to go to big school one day,” he said as he made the school bus drive away.
My silence must have given him wonder.
“Right, buddy. You will go to big school one day.”
And I pray that none of the big schools he goes on to attend will ever find its way onto the growing list that Millard South High became a part of today.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims who remain hospitalized, the unhurt students who remain traumatized as well as the family of the perpetrator.
May they somehow find peace within all the things that can never be explained.