By Shawn Simpson
A community college not unlike JCCC was attacked by a gunman a few days ago. Nine people died and nine others were injured as a result of the events that have unfortunately become an all-too-common theme in the American story. But what if it happened here?
Just over a year ago, the campus was locked down due to a potential active shooter situation. That turned out to be a false alarm. We marked the occasion with a reminder of the campus’s A.L.I.C.E. procedure.
Columbine, Ft. Hood, Charleston, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Umpqua. Names of places of relative tranquility and peace until shots rang out and lives were lost. Events like these serve to bring emotions to a boil in every corner of society as we struggle to make sense of what happened and how to stop it from happening again.
“[I am] a little worried, especially being at a community college,” said student Savanah McGowen. “If it can happen there, it can happen here.”
A feeling of anxiety following a nationally publicized tragedy can serve to heighten a person’s awareness of what is going on around them. “Eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty.” A well-known quote attributed to many people, including former president Thomas Jefferson, says a lot about the current state of campus life. Being aware of your surroundings can mean survival or not in the worst situation.
McGowen continued, “I don’t feel like there’s a bunch of crazy people waiting to shoot [up] the place, but I don’t know. Anything can happen. I sit here and draw people. Sometimes I will notice people … I haven’t really seen anybody doing anything sketchy.”
Another student, Brittney Jones, is a mother of two and tries to stay on alert when she’s in public.
“[It’s about] being aware. I have two kids, so being aware of the people around us [is important]. Sometimes people give off a stand-offish vibe,” Jones said. “They get tunnel vision when they’re thinking about what they’re going to do, not paying attention to what’s around them.”
The issues surrounding what causes individuals to take up arms against their fellow human beings run far too deep for most civil conversations. Battle lines are drawn and teams are formed for an arduous fight over mental health and gun control in the United States. On the local level, it comes down to what we can do to help one another on any given day.
“I don’t go looking for things, but if I see something, I will say something,” said student Janelle Fries.
Fries’ statement says what we can all do: keep an eye out for things out of the ordinary and report them to the proper authorities if you feel like that’s warranted. Also, review the A.L.I.C.E. procedures and put the number for the campus police in your phone. The world will never be completely safe, but together we can make it better.
If you see something out of the ordinary, call campus police at 913-469-2500 or dial extension 4111 from any campus telephone.
All photography contributions by Staff Photographer Julia Larberg.