Every weekday during the fall, winter and spring in America, millions of boys and girls go to school with nary a care in the world, except, perhaps, for tests they have to take and projects they are supposed to turn in.
Thank heaven, exceptions to that rule are exceedingly rare. But when they occur in the form of armed intruders bent on murder, it is critical that school personnel know how to react. A first step is knowing when danger is present.
Fortunately, a school resource officer at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo., knew what the sound of gunshots inside the building meant several days ago. He went immediately toward the sound and found the shooter, 18-year-old Karl Pierson, in the school library. Pierson committed suicide when he saw the officer approaching.
Sadly, Pierson shot a girl, wounding her critically, before being stopped. Investigators say he was heavily armed and had plans for attacks in at least five areas of the school.
In the aftermath, some students interviewed by reporters said they were not aware the loud sounds they heard were gunshots until teachers told them to "lock down" inside classrooms. One boy said the reports from Pierson's shotgun at first sounded like someone dropping a stack of books in a hallway.
Should the incomprehensible occur in Ohio County schools, staff members will know what gunshots sound like - perhaps saving critical seconds in reacting to them.
Training through the Operation Safe Schools Initiative is scheduled at Ohio County schools, thanks to a suggestion by U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld. A key part of the plan is to use OSSI team members, from the State Police, FBI and Jefferson County (W.Va.) Sheriff's Department, to fire various types of guns inside school buildings, with staff members present. The training will occur when students are not in schools.
Blank cartridges and shells from a .223-caliber rifle, .45-caliber pistol and 12-gauge shotgun will be fired at each school.
Here in West Virginia, where hunting is a very popular sport, many people recognize the sound of gunshots outdoors. But the sound inside a building is different.
Good for all involved in scheduling the training. Other school systems in our area should take advantage of it, if they have not done so already. It could save lives.