I sat down to write today and ended up spending an hour reading reports on the Virginia Tech shooting. The headline that struck me the most was, "He was a loner." That was exactly how the gunman who killed 5 people at the Trolley Square mall was described. And that got me thinking about loners I have known.
In High School I knew a few, but there was one in particular who comes to mind. He drove a truck with a shot gun in the back window. And looking back it scares me to think how easy it would have been for him to bring that shot gun into the school and take out a few people. In his mind, he probably would have had reason to. He was unpopular in his class, teased and ridiculed by many.
However, I wouldn't have called him friendless. I was his friend. And so was my cousin.
A couple of weeks ago I went to a forum at UVSC. There was an author there who writes about troubled youth, and he talked about a novel he wrote, one about a school shooting. He had been inspired to write it, he said, after a school shooting near his home in Washington. In the aftermath, people were trying to make some sense out of it and one man told his story. He said he understood how the gunman felt, because he'd felt that way himself. One day he reached the point where he was ready to go home and come back the next day with a gun. But on his way out of the school, one of the popular jocks put a hand on his shoulder and said something as simple as, "Hey, how ya doin'." And that did it. Just being achknowledged diffused his anger. He didn't do the terrible thing he had been contemplating.
I thought about that story today. And I thought about my friend in high school. I'm not sure where he is or what his life is like, but I do know we all made it through High School without suffering from his wrath. I don't credit my friendship for that. But I do know that of all the things I regret in High School, and there are a few of them, I don't regret being friends with a loner.