Troy N. Diggs
March 26, 1998
"I believe the children are our future;
teach them well, and let them lead the way.
Show them all the beauty they possess inside...
give them a sense of pride."
--- "The Greatest Love of All", Whitney Houston
As most of you know by now, back on March 24, two boys opened fire on a group of students at a middle school here in Jonesboro, AR. I don't know how long this story will be on the minds of Americans, nor do I know what the final impact will be, but as I sit here, right now, I have things I need to say about this.
Jonesboro, AR, for all its faults, is really a close-knit community. The people who live here are the people I see every day. They go to class with me. They come in to where I work and rent movies. They drive along the same streets as I do. And, now, I grieve among them.
I went to Westside Middle School today to cover the media coverage for a program for ASU. As my cameraman and I were shooting footage, we saw a media swarm around two people... I couldn't tell who they were. They made their way to the crime scene and I told my cameraman NOT to shoot this. This was something too personal to be laid out for all the world to see.
We walked by, and I heard someone call my name. I turned around, and a friend of mine was standing there. She and I had a radio class together last fall, and her daughter was involved in the tragedy. I walked over, gave her a hug, and her first question was "Who are you here for?" I told her I was there for ASU, and she told her daughter, "He's my friend. Do you want to talk to him?" She nodded, and instantly, the media swarm focused around me and the questions I was asking her. Honestly, I would have given anything if they had all disappeared. Not to sound selfish, but I think she wanted me to talk to her and her daughter, simply because she knew I wouldn't pressure her or shove a camera up her nose. It made me feel wonderful, because it helped me remember that hey, I can help out in this time of crisis at my home.
At the same time... it makes me kind of ashamed of my home. I was watching a report on ABC tonight (which was filed by a Memphis reporter), and several people commented that Jonesboro is a hunting community, and that there are lots of people out here who are gun enthusiasts and such. It makes me sad when I think that these kids are taught how to hunt at such a very early age. I remember being in 6th grade and taking hunter education classes, which I believe all the schools in this area do at that age. In previous columns, I've joked that everyone around here owns a pickup and has a gun rack in the back. To put a realistic perspective on it, not everyone around here does. I don't have exact figures, but it's enough to say that kids go hunting and kids know how to operate a gun.
My point is this: for God's sake, a 11 year old boy SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO EVEN THINK ABOUT HOLDING A GUN. I've never really been a gun control proponent, and this really doesn't change my thinking about the subject... it may sound crazy, but owning a gun is like having sex. If you're not old enough to be accepting the consequences if something goes wrong, then damn it, don't do it. If your kids aren't old enough to accept those consequences, then damn it, make sure THEY don't do it.
Overall, the facts are that 5 people are dead. Two boys allegedly shot them. Beyond all that lies a bed of grief, shock, and pain that we all have to deal with. I ask you all to help us share the load and keep us in your thoughts, because quite honestly, I don't think I can ever look at this town the same ever again.
Email is good. Mail me at TDiggs@aztec.astate.edu or visit my Web page at http://www.geocities.com/~tdiggs/