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.
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.)
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.