Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

How the planned attack on a Waseca school impacts me personally May 2, 2014

HOW DOES ONE BEGIN to write about a school tragedy averted?

That is my challenge as I reflect on the events of the past days in which a 17-year-old Waseca High School student allegedly planned to carry out a Columbine type massacre in his southern Minnesota school.

The school where my youngest sister and a friend teach and which my niece attends. The school I just drove past last Sunday while visiting my other sister in Waseca, a rural community of nearly 10,000 only a half hour drive away.

A 17-page court document outlines the charges against John David LaDue, described in media reports as a normal kid, a good kid. Now he faces multiple charges, including first degree premeditated attempted murder, in a plot to kill his family, a school resources officer and others in his school. (Click here to read the charges against LaDue and a Statement of Probable Cause filed in court documents.)

An arsenal of weapons, bombs and bomb-making equipment were found in his bedroom and a storage locker and a journal documented his plans, according to court records.

This could have been another Columbine, another Virginia Tech, another Sandy Hook, another American school tragedy. And this time it impacts those I love.

I’ve found so often in my life that, until an event touches me personally, I cannot fully understand or comprehend. It is something that happens somewhere else, to someone else. Not this time.

And not in the past: a dear friend’s father murdered; a SWAT team sweeping through my neighborhood in search of a murder weapon in a drug deal gone bad; my son struck by a hit-and-run driver; the frantic middle-of-the-night screams of a woman being assaulted across the street from my home; a frantic young man ringing my doorbell seeking protection from a gang of men in pursuit of him; a brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s niece murdered in a case of domestic violence, the son of a high school classmate and hometown neighbor hunkered down at Virginia Tech during the massacre of 32 there in April of 2007…

Now this.

It would be easy to despair, to wonder what this world is coming to. But I’m going to take my cue from Waseca School Superintendent Thomas Lee, who in a May 1 press conference (click here to read his entire statement) said in part: “We can either believe that this (arrest of John LaDue) occurred as a result of a lucky break or, as I do, choose to believe that God was looking out for all of us.”

Furthermore, Lee continues with these words worthy of reflection:

On another note I respectfully submit that these kind of events that have been happening in schools across this country should be a warning sign to us all. These events are like “canaries in the mines” – an indicator that something is deeply wrong in our culture. These kinds of events are unique to our American culture. They are certainly not found anywhere else in the world, except in very few isolated cases. Why are they unique to our American culture? What is it in our culture that fosters these kind of events? There will be many opinions about this – our obsession with violence, our tv shows and movies, lack of parenting, the prevalence of guns, corporate greed and of course, gridlock in our government. I suggest that these are all symptoms of a significantly degraded culture. We all know that nothing is guaranteed in this life but it is time that we collectively look into the mirror with honesty and integrity – that we ask ourselves how our choices are contributing to this degradation, and determine what we can do individually to stem the downward slide. We need to do everything possible to look out for one another – especially our kids.

The superintendent is spot on correct. Nothing is guaranteed in this life. And we need to look out for one another, especially our kids.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling