As a reporter who focuses largely on education, I frequently find myself learning about the best of what happens inside schools. But this week, it is hard for me to ignore the feelings of sadness brought on by the acts of violence that took place at not one but two Texas college campuses.
For those unaware of the events I’m referring to, one student was killed and three others were injured in a stabbing spree at the University of Texas at Austin on Monday, and two people were shot to death at North Lake College in Irving on Wednesday.
I remember both the first and last day I ever set foot on my college campus as a student. My memories of those two days have less to do with what actually happened in any 24-hour period and everything to do with the transformation I underwent between them as a student and a person.
I arrived at college still unsure of who I really was and what I wanted to learn about, but I left with a sense of self-confidence, a broader view of the world and, most importantly, something that no one can ever take away from me — an education.
I was also fortunate to leave with a handful of new friends and close relationships with some of the best teachers I have ever known. One of my co-workers studied at North Lake College, where he too forged a bond with his instructors. To see him worried about their safety, even after years spent apart, drove home just how many people are affected by events like these.
The human toll of this week’s attacks is what you’ll see in the headlines. Three people lost their lives in acts of extreme violence, and those who survived will now have to carry the experience with them. But in my mind, any attack that takes place on a college campus is also an attack on what our schools stand for — knowledge, opportunity, creativity, community and the diversity of both people and ideas.
My college campus was my sanctuary. There, I was free to learn and ask questions without judgment or punishment, and I was given the chance to grow into the person that I am today without fear. Schools are a safe haven where people of all ages, interests and walks of life are given the tools and the skills they need to excel and improve the world around them. While we are sure to see violence and tragedy on our college campuses again, we must not let the threat keep us from the classroom.
Happy birthday Thursday to Donnie Gilliam, Alayja Futrell, Jo Bateman, Joy Jones, David Bell, Elisheah Nelson, and Destiny Alexander, all of Sherman; Kolton Bell of Midland; and June Bug Bowser of Denison.