Townville Elementary School and Fear - In His Grip - Week of October 10

Townville Elementary School and Fear
by Sharon Betters

The mother of a student at Townville Elementary School told CNN Greenville Affiliate WYFF  that her daughter and classmates huddled in a bathroom.

"Her teacher was shaken up. I know all the kids were scared. There was a bunch of kids crying," the unidentified woman said. "She didn't talk for about five minutes when I got her. ... I'm just so scared. I don't even want her to go to school now."

The mother said she was praying for the families of the injured. (Source: SC Shootings: Three wounded at School, Man Dead at Home by Steve Almasy and Keith Allen, CNN)

Terror in an Elementary School

Media quickly spread the cause of these chilling words from the mother of an elementary aged child:

  • Two students and one teacher shot, one student critical.
  • Teenager in custody, subdued by a volunteer firefighter.
  • Father of suspect, Jeffrey Osborne, 47, found shot dead at nearby home.
  • Investigators know of no motive.

Source: Huffington Post, Townville Elementary School Shooting

I thought of our elementary aged grandchildren as I visualized terrorized little children running to the bathroom of their classroom,  gun shots ringing in their ears and I recognize the fear and profound shock in this mom’s words. Who cannot imagine the tears and near hysteria as the children tried to remain quiet, hoping the gunman would not find them. Did scenes from other school shootings rush through their young minds?

Because of my own life experiences, I know that these families will not soon “get over” the fear of sending their children to school or even letting them out of their sight. If I could speak to this mother, I would share how fear drove me to find a way to live life without constantly waiting for the “other shoe to drop.”

My story goes back to a summer night in 1993.

I Guess We’re Starting Over Again

Chuck and I followed our seventeen-year-old son, Dan, out to the car. Our faces revealed the fear bubbling up into our words. “Dan, follow the speed limit, don’t rush, watch out for other drivers. . .” And then we repeated the same instructions, knowing we had to let him go, terrified this could be the last time we would see him alive.

Fear. The root of fear is the fear of death and it can be a powerful force for good. Stories about fathers lifting a car off of their child or a mother’s strength overcoming grown men trying to stop her from running into a burning building to save her sleeping baby. . . These stories fill us with awe and we wonder if that same supernatural strength would be ours if our loved ones were in danger. And we're sure nothing could stop us from saving our child.

Yet, Chuck and I could not prevent the deaths of our youngest child, sixteen-year-old Mark, and his friend Kelly, who were in a fatal car accident a few weeks before this moment with our son, Dan.

Dan was eighteen months older than Mark. We often commented that the boys were connected at the hip. Before that horrific accident, Mark would have been getting into the car with Dan that warm summer night. That night that we hovered like helicopters over our third child.

Dan showed remarkable restraint for a seventeen year old, as we repeatedly cautioned him to be careful. He looked at us across the hood of the car and kindly asked, “I guess we’re starting over again, aren’t we?”

I could barely respond, as tears threatened to fall, “Yes, Dan, we’re starting over and I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Even as I’m writing those words, the terror of those days rushes back and tears freely fall.

“It’s ok, Mom and Dad. I get it. And I’ll be careful.”

That was over twenty years ago, and Dan came back safe and sound. But that was the beginning of learning to face each day without allowing fear to control my thoughts and actions. It’s been a long journey and such news stories remind me that fighting fear is a ongoing battle.

Fear can be a powerful force that drives us to make decisions that will protect not only us, but those we love. But the flip side is it also can be a force that locks us up into a cage, a prison.

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