I'm sure you're as heartsick as I am about the recent shooting at Chardon High School in Chardon, Ohio. Questions abound: Was the alleged shooter, T.J. Lane, bullied by the kids he shot? Is he mentally ill and just happened to pick out these people? What was going on in the mind of this teen boy, who allegedly stole his uncle's gun, brought it to a school he did not attend and point-blank shot his victims? I don't know the answer and neither do you.
What we can all agree on, I'm sure, is that our hearts and prayers go out to the three young men who were murdered: Daniel Parmertor, Russell King, Jr. and Demetrius Hewlin. I've received so much mail from teens about this shooting that I'm turning the column over to them today. Their words range from angry to religious to profound. When it comes to kids killing kids, I think it will do everyone a service to listen to what other kids have to say about it.
"I'm so sick of kids saying they're bullied and then, that's why they bring a gun to school and kill kids. Does that mean when my mom yells at me because I don't do my best on a math test I should go get a gun and shoot her because it makes me feel bad when she yells at me? I hope this kid gets the death penalty and goes to hell, where he belongs..." — Mason R., Des Moines, Iowa
"I read that that two of the parents of the boys that died have forgiven the shooter. If someone killed my child, I would never forgive him or her. My mom always said to me that the worst thing in the world is to out live your children. It makes me feel angry with those parents. In my religion, people don't get forgiveness automatically; they have to make amends.
"Well, not only is T.J. Lane not going to make amends, he doesn't have to do anything at all and he gets forgiven. I can't believe in a God who thinks we should just forgive anyone who does anything, no matter how horrible. What about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? Isn't that what the Bible says?" — Shannyn R., Lansing, Mich.
"I live far away from where those school shootings took place, but I haven't gone back to school since I heard about it. I live in a peaceful town that looks a lot like Chardon.
"How do I know this won't happen at my school tomorrow? What if some kid gets mad at me or doesn't like something I say or how I look? What if I get blamed? What if I try to do everything right but someone gets mad at me anyway? Last night, I had a bad nightmare that I was screaming but no sound came out of my mouth..." —Maddy S., Franklin, Tenn.
"My little brother is 8, and he plays these really violent games on the computer where guys kill each other and there is blood everywhere. He thinks it's cool and funny. I told my parents that Wy has this game that is not for kids, but they say they don't believe in censoring what he does because he knows he can talk to them about anything. I watched that game for five minutes and it made me sick. I can't help wondering if the boy who shot those kids in Ohio played very violent video games because he was home alone and after awhile, the shooting and the blood and stuff just seemed like a cartoon, so it didn't bother him." — Evers E. Syracuse, N.Y.
"In high school, kids feel like they have to hide who they are and how they feel. They think no one has the problems they have and they are all alone. Everyone puts on a false face. Everyone acts like they are cool and everything is OK. I know because I used to do this, even though I was dying inside.
"My dad hit my mom; my mom put away two bottles of vodka a night, and no on paid any attention to me. My dad is a doctor, so on the outside everything looked all perfect. No one knew what was going on inside my house, or inside my head. I had fantasies of killing teachers I hated. I would draw cartoons of them with their head flying off and blood flying everywhere. I feel like the kid in Ohio could have been me, except he crossed the line, and I didn't.
"Why not? I don't know. I got my anger out in my cartoons, and I left home as soon as I could to start a new life at college. I don't feel so angry anymore. I have friends and a whole new life. I just want to say that the line between having a dark fantasy and acting on it can be really thin. If you saw me next to you at the 7-Eleven or something, you'd never know how close I came to being a killer." — Don't Use My Name Or Where I Live
Cherie Bennett is a best-selling author of books for teens and young adults. Visit her website at www.cheriebennett.com. To find out more about Cherie Bennett and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.