Shortly after the Apr. 20, 1999 Columbine High School massacre, I was privileged to address audiences throughout America on leadership, violence prevention, and crisis planning.
During these presentations, I shared reflections with law enforcement, educators, mental health professionals, private security, students, government officials, and community leaders. These reflections crystalized concerns that violence in America would intensify not only in schools, but in workplaces and communities, against police, in houses of worship, and by acts of terrorism.
America’s Head-On Collision
In my graphic slide presentations, I used a metaphor of a head-on catastrophic train-wreck in America. The head-on collision emphasized the effects of our simultaneous crisis of leadership and culture of violence.
The crisis of leadership was illuminated by documentation of unbridled public corruption on the FBI website. These shameful public corruption cases were compounded by my demonstration of nationwide media reports of corporate fraud, professional sports scandals, celebrity turpitude, and despicable crimes at the highest level of faith-based communities.
The culture of violence was emphasized through tragic incidents of domestic violence, hate-crimes, workplace violence, and terrorism, of violence against those who defend us, of violence by gangs, and of course school and campus violence.
In one slide, I shared a news story from Dec. 7, 1999 titled “Four hurt in gunfire at Oklahoma school: 13 year-old suspect subdued by teacher.” The article, in the back pages of the paper, was used to dramatize that America’s horrific acts of violence were becoming commonplace and no longer making headline news.
Houses of Worship: Sanctuary Profaned
I also stressed to audiences, and have now been doing so for nearly 20 years, that sites in America, previously understood to provide sanctuary, were not invulnerable. My presentations underscored that America would see more intense, senseless, and unimaginable acts of violence in places thought to be sacrosanct, houses of worship.
Predictably, these acts of violence in houses of worship have occurred. They have involved the recent attack at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX where twenty-six were killed on Nov. 5, 2017. The have also included the following, which is tragically only a partial list:
- Burnette Chapel Church of Christ—Sept. 25, 2017, Antioch, Tenn., where a woman was killed walking to her car and congregants were indiscriminately shot in the sanctuary.
- Emanuel African Methodist Church—June 17, 2015 in Charleston, SC where a white supremacist killed nine and injured another during their Bible study.
- Overland Park Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom Retirement Center—April 13, 2014, Kansas City, Kan. where a white supremacist killed three people.
- Saint Bernard Roman Catholic Church— 2, 2014, Eureka, Calif. where a Roman Catholic priest was found brutally murdered in the church rectory.
- First United Presbyterian Church— 3, 2012, Coudersport, Pa. where a man walked into church in the middle of Sunday Advent services and fatally shot his ex-wife, Darlene Sitler, 53, while she sat in a pew. Darlene was the organist and choir director at the church.
- Muslim Center Education Mosque— 12, 2012, Morton Grove, Ill., where a man was arrested for shooting a high-velocity air rifle outside a mosque where hundreds of worshippers were celebrating Ramada.
- Sikh Temple of Wisconsin—Aug. 5, 2012, Oak Creek, Wis., where six people were killed. Five years later, the temple’s website cites that this was not only a Sikh tragedy but an American one.
- Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church—July 27, 2008, Knoxville, Tenn., where two were killed and several others wounded by shotgun.
- Youth With a Mission—Dec. 9, 2007, Arvada, Colo. where a man and woman were killed and two men wounded at a school for missionaries.
- Living Church of God—March 12, 2005, Brookfield, Wis. where a gunman opened fire at a worship service killing seven and wounding four.
- Wedgewood Baptist Church— 15, 1999, Fort Worth, Texas where a gunman invaded a youth prayer rally featuring a Christian rock group. The killer had 200 rounds of ammunition and a pipe bomb. Seven people were killed and seven others injured.
Violence Enters America’s Arteries
Since the aforementioned Dec. 7, 1999 news story reminded me of the Dec. 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, I used a clip during presentations of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). The clip was from his famous Infamy Speech to a Joint Session of Congress on Dec. 8, 1941.
FDR stated, “Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked.”
This iconic clip was used to dramatize that if FDR were alive today, he would address a new infamy inflicted upon America, ignited by our crisis of leadership and culture of violence. I stressed that FDR would devote his energy to reawaken the nation to a renaissance of character. This character, in my opinion, is critical for vanquishing the violence that has entered into the very heart of America—in our schools, campuses, families, workplaces, and communities, against our police, and even in houses of worship.
America’s Violence Intensifies
Tragically, the Columbine massacre, which was the deadliest school attack in American history less than 20 years ago, was followed by additional grim statistics including Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook.
For a time, Columbine was also not only the most heart-breaking school violence tragedy, but one of America’s most deadly overall.
Unfortunately, the crisis as addressed in my article titled “Mass Shootings: America’s Public Health Crisis,” published in the Dec. 10, 2015 edition of The Epoch Times, not only continues but intensifies.
America is experiencing so many mass shootings, that Columbine has now faded from the list of the ten most deadly in modern U.S. history.
The current list, tragically subject to change at any time due to the intensifying violence in America, is as follows:
- The Harvest Music Festival – Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 1, 2017, 58 killed and over 500 injured.
- Pulse Night Club – Orlando, Fla., Jun. 16, 2016, 49 killed, 50 injured.
- Virginia Tech – Blacksburg, Va., Apr. 16, 2007, 32 killed and an estimated 20 injured.
- Sandy Hook – Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, 2012, 20 children ages 6 and 7 killed, along with six adults.
- First Baptist Church – Sutherland Springs, Texas, Nov. 5, 2017, 26 people killed including children in the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history.
- Luby’s Cafeteria – Killeen, Texas, Nov. 5, 1991, 23 people killed.
- McDonalds – San Ysidro, Calif., July 18, 1984, 21 killed, including children.
- University of Texas – Austin, Texas, Aug. 1, 1966, 16 killed and at least 30 wounded.
- Inland Regional Center – San Bernardino, Calif., Dec. 2, 2015, 14 people killed at a state-run facility for individuals with developmental disabilities.
- S. Postal Service – Edmond, Calif., Aug. 20, 1986, 14 postal employees killed.
America Wake-Up: Stop the Carnage
As the Columbine tragedy fades from the list of America’s most deadly mass shootings, it has become solemnly verified that these tragedies not only continue, but have become more deadly.
Four of the five deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the last five years, and we continue to witness America’s flag lowered to half-staff.
America, the land of the free and home of the brave must not allow these mass shootings to define us. We must also refuse to allow apathy to rule our times. America must never accept an attempt to banish these tragedies to back page news.
It is time for America to wake-up, to be reawakened, and to stop the carnage of the innocents by igniting the only force that will change the tide, our moral courage.
Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen to Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.