STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

This is my think piece to try to make sense of the latest senseless tragedy

Umpqua Community College

Today is my day to write a blog post here. We keep a schedule. It's my turn. I should have gotten it done earlier in the day. Then I wouldn't have to write about another school shooting. 

I've been listening to live coverage from the TV stations in Oregon for the past hour. I've been refreshing my Twitter feed, and reading the comments on Reddit. I've learned nearly nothing. 

Except: At least seven people are dead. At least 20 are wounded. The shooting happened at a school, a community college in a rural part of southwest Oregon. 

I lived not far from Roseburg when I was a kid. I played Little League games against kids from Roseburg. What does that have to do with what happened today in Roseburg? Nothing.

Except: I'm reminded how these things can happen anywhere, anytime. 

Two years ago, I was in an elementary school, recording audio for a story. Then the voice of the principal came over the intercom. 

"This is a code red lockdown. CODE. RED. LOCKDOWN," the voice didn't speak in all capital letters. But that is how I heard it. 

I was in the lunchroom at the time. I went with the lunch staff into the kitchen, and we locked the door behind us. I was terrified. 

It must've been a full minute, before I realized it was just a drill. These drills happen now. They have to happen. And even after I knew it was a drill, I was terrified. I tried to joke, and laugh it off, but it shook me for days. It still shakes me. 

This latest tragedy in Oregon will open up yet another national conversation about ... what? Guns? Mental health? Violent video games? The media?

I'll click on all the think pieces, same as I'm clicking on all the news stories now. And I will learn almost nothing, same as I've learned almost nothing in these first few hours. Which isn't to say there's nothing to learn. Only that, whatever it is, we already know it. We already know it because this has happened before, over and over. 

Will it be different this time? I don't know. If anything does change, will it stop this horrific trend? I don't know. 

I know every time this happens, I'm terrified. I'm sad. I'm worried about the people who've lost someone they love today. 

Beyond that, I don't know what to say. It was my day to write a blog post. 

I'm grateful that's all that's asked of me right now. I can't give you answers. I can't give you a statistic that will change your mind about anything, although many other writers are about to try. 

A little while ago, while I sat numbly listening to the coverage of this shooting, my son came up to me. I get to write my blog posts from home, and he often comes to interrupt my work. He's not yet two, and he doesn't really get boundaries. 

He came up to me with a book, and climbed into my lap. Instead of shooing him away, like I usually do, I pulled him close. 

What does this have to do with today's shooting? Nothing. 

Except: That's the only thing that made me feel any better. Whatever national conversation comes out of this, whatever think pieces I read over the next few weeks. Whatever the presidential candidates have to say. All we can do is hold our children close. 

I know they won't always be safe. But sometimes, at least, I won't be as terrified. 

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter on the State of Opportunity project, based in Grand Rapids. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.