Two School Shootings, Two Famous People

HoggSeaman-horz

A few months ago there was a tragic school shooting in at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  A few days ago there was another one, this time in my own backyard – at Noblesville West Middle School in Noblesville, Indiana.  There were some similarities, and some differences.  Particularly in who came out as the face of the tragedy.

I was stunned when I heard the news.  If there is a more normal, average, suburban community than Noblesville, Indiana, I cannot imagine what it is.  Noblesville is the county seat of the wealthiest county in the state.  However, it is not the place where all that wealth lives.  Noblesville has remained a relatively old-fashioned middle class place that lacks many of the problems of the richest and of the poorest among us.

There are farms nearby, there is industry nearby and there are middle class suburban neighborhoods everywhere.  It is not a place where people are prone to violence or even rowdiness.  These are just average midwestern folks, the kind who used to think that this kind of violence only happens somewhere else.

The Florida shooting was a genuine tragedy which ended up with fourteen students and three staff members fatally shot.  The shooter (whose name I do not care to mention) was a mentally disturbed young man who seemd to have had a morbid fixation on guns.  I wrote about that incident and the way it was impacting a national discussion of firearms.

The Noblesville case was different in a number of ways – the biggest one being that nobody was killed.  Although it has been several days, not much is yet known about the events.  So far it appears that a seventh grade student asked to be excused from a science class and returned a few minutes later with two handguns.  He began firing.  One student was struck by a bullet and was injured and the teacher was also shot and injured, but not before he tackled the kid and stopped things from getting worse.  We do not know the kind of guns used or where they came from.

Each of these shootings has created a famous person.  One may be more famous than he ought to be and the other should be more famous than he is.  I will let you decide which is which.

David_Hogg-crop

We are all by now familiar with David Hogg from Parkland Florida.  Eighteen year old Mr. Hogg, a Stoneman Douglas student who was not personally injured, has become an activist for anti-gun and other causes.  Most recently he was leading a “die-in” protest at a Publix supermarket to protest the chain’s political contribution to a Republican candidate and to demand a $1 million contribution to the Stoneman Douglas Victims Fund.  (He did not accomplish that last one, in case you are interested.)

Jason Seaman-crop

Back here in Indiana the shooting produced another famous person – Mr. Jason Seaman.  Mr. Seaman was the twenty-nine year old 7th grade science teacher whose classroom was ground zero for the young student with two loaded guns.

Mr. Seaman was a genuine hero.  He had a class of kids to protect and he gave it all he had.  He took three bullets to his body as he tackled the youth and disarmed him.  He was able to save everyone in his class with the exception of one young girl who was wounded in the chest.  Fortunately none of the three shots to Mr. Seaman was in a critical area and he has been released from the hospital.

I was struck by the difference in these two young men.  Mr. Seaman, a married father of two young children, was a genuine, full-on hero.  He had everything to lose yet acted anyway.  He had no way of knowing whether he would live or die, but he was ready to sacrifice his safety (and even his life) for the kids in his classroom.

Football.  Jason Seaman was a football guy.  He played it in high school and was a defensive end at Southern Illinois University.  He was also the 7th grade boys football coach at Noblesville West Middle School.

I was never a football guy.  As a kid I was much too bookish.  I was not naturally athletic and it never entered my mind that signing up for the football team could help me in any way.  But watching one of my sons play football in 7th and 8th grades and getting to know men who have played at the college level has changed my mind on this.

Football players (the good ones, at least) learn discipline and teamwork and personal sacrifice.  Every member of the team has a part to play and every play for a defensive player involves trying to take out your assigned man.  It is not hard to believe that Jason Seaman’s football instincts kicked in as he quickly assessed the threat and jumped to neutralize it.  As I think about it, it was one of the football coaches at Stoneman Douglas who died of bullet wounds after he shielded two of his students from gunfire.

I am not sure that any other training short of the military would have been so crucial in a situation calling for decisive action.  And I wonder if I would have been able to summon that kind of fortitude had I been in that classroom instead.  I have been developing a lot more respect for those who have played and coached football than I once did, respect that could fairly be said should have been there all along.

The bigger point is that since his heroic action Mr. Seaman has done everything he can to stay out of the limelight and to deflect credit to those many other people who did good things in helping to keep the kids of that school safe.  He has had every opportunity to become the center of attention and to bask in the adulation of his community, but he has consistently refused to go there.  What he did was about protecting his kids, and nothing more.  It is reward enough for him that both he and his students are safe.

In fairness, Jason Seaman is twelve years older than David Hogg and we all know that young men do a lot of growing up on those twelve years.  But I think that we in our society should be doing a better job of making comparisons like these when they come along.

I am sometimes fearful for our future when I see the David Hoggs of our society.  Really, have we not yet reached a saturation point of “activists”?  If not, we certainly need not fear running out of them soon, as there are so many causes that seem to require the noise and attention and disruption that they generate, whether or not that noise and attention and disruption actually accomplish anything.  Really, is “activist” just another name for someone who makes a lot of splash in trying to make other people do something?  I mean as opposed to actually accomplishing anything.

But I feel a little better on those rare occasions when a Jason Seaman comes into my field of view.  I sometimes think that the big quiet guy who will face down danger and then not want to make a big deal out of it has gone the way of the World War II generation.  Fortunately there are still some of these folks around.  I know which of these two famous young men earns my respect and admiration.

 

Photo of David Hogg from Wikimedia Commons, shared by Barry Stock who took it at a Fort Lauderdale rally for firearm safety on February 17, 2018.

Photo of Jason Seaman has been used without attribution by every local news source I can think of, along with multiple non-local media outlets.  Photo source unknown.

13 thoughts on “Two School Shootings, Two Famous People

  1. There are two very different people discussed here – one opportunist and one who is selfless.

    Never having been a fan of football, the amount of teamwork instilled into the players is something that is easy to overlook. Mr. Seaman’s background quickly came to benefit everyone there.

    Incidentally, a friend of my wife’s family went to SIU with Mr. Seaman and they are reasonably good friends.

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  2. I know which one I would want with me in an active-shooter situation….
    My old boss played fullback at Arizona State under the legendary Frank Kush and was in the Army. He probably would react like Mr. Seaman.

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  3. Thought about this one all day Jim, being from a different country I am aware of these two incidents but knew nothing of these two people. What I find interesting is the contrast in response, and the questions that raises.
    Mr. Seaman stops a situation effectively at great personal risk and the cost of injury. Then he returns to his life. Well done, situation stopped, no response required.
    Mr. Hogg is much more complex, he was only peripherally involved but becomes an activist. Now an activist requires consideration and response, do I agree with this guy or do I not? Does the fact that he was not personally injured disqualify him from having a voice on the issue? Are we any closer to understanding the problem and building a solution?

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    • A very thoughtful response. I don’t think the lack of direct injury disqualifies someone from becoming an activist. And I think Hogg should get at least a partial pass for being only a high school kid. He may be immature, but at his age that is not entirely his fault.
      I have lately been questioning the value of activism. I can propose an opinion in a conversation or in this blog and invite you to agree. But the activist demands your agreement and is prepared to make your refusal to agree costly. There may be causes that demand activism (The civil rights struggles of the 50s and 60s come to mind) but it seems that since then the ratio of activists to great causes has exploded. I guess I am getting activist fatigue.

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  4. I think it’s an unfair and unnecessary comparison. Mr Seaman acted with courage and skill, and like some … perhaps most … real heroes, he’s not making a big deal about what he did. Is Mr Hogg an activist or merely an opportunist? I don’t know, but he’s young, he’s energetic, he was affected by a truly horrific experience, and his actions may help save many more lives over time. Or not … we don’t yet know. Thanks for bringing Mr Seaman’s heroic actions to our attention, but I don’t think it’s necessry to denigrate Mr Hogg to do so.

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    • You make a fair point and it is one I have thought about since I wrote this. But each of these men became “The public face” or perhaps the leading narrative from the two events. Different people, different circumstances, different reactions – this was the contrast I found interesting. And perhaps the comparison says as much about media coverage as about them, with one being mostly local and the other being national.

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  5. Pingback: Security: What Has Changed? | J. P. Cavanaugh's Blog

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