Shock. Disbelief. Horror. Fear. Anger. Sadness.
So many words can be used to describe the reactions and emotions surging through this community this week in the wake of the utterly incomprehensible stabbing of two teen students at Abbotsford Senior Secondary on Tuesday afternoon.
With no discernible connection to the victims, a young man with no fixed address somehow came to this city, and inexplicably chose that school and those girls to launch a violent knife attack that took the life of one and left the other seriously injured.
In the days following, the rumours and theories have been rampant, especially on social media. In the absence of immediate answers to so many questions – the overriding one being “Why?” – it is understandable that there is concern over public safety, particularly for students in schools.
However, it is vital that this incident – as terrifying and traumatic as it is – is kept in sharp perspective.
This is a first in B.C. schools, and among few such deadly incidents in all of Canada in contemporary times.
It is not in any way representative of the overall public safety in this community, or this country.
This was a random act, impossible to anticipate. The accused man could have easily chosen his targets at a mall, on a playing field, or on the street.
Do we really want to heed calls to turn our schools into locked institutions, with metal detectors at the doors and guards in the hall?
Do such measures not telegraph the message that young people – in an environment of learning and enlightenment – actually live in a dangerous, violent place where they should be fearful and distrustful?
As bitter and painful as this is, there are societal lessons to be learned here and realities to be understood.
Vengeance at this point is justifiably instinctive, but it’s not preventive. If indeed the accused turns out to be homeless, with an acute, untreated mental illness, how can such individuals be identified early, and intervention applied before they commit senseless, brutal violence?
This man must have walked a very dark path. We know where it led, but we don’t know how. And that is crucial if we vow that a wonderful, vibrant teen like Letisha will be the last such victim.
More locked doors, more police, and harsher punishment for offenders may provide a sense of greater security, but the social guarantee is thin.
That is the future challenge before us.
But for now, we reach out to two unimaginably stricken families, and we grieve.