The past week and a half has been a sobering one for those of us living in the Spokane area. On September 13, a sophomore at Freeman High School opened fire in school hallways that took one student’s life and landed three others in the hospital.
My husband served as the varsity girls basketball coach from 2013 to 2016 at that school, so we spent many Friday nights at the school cheering on the Scotties. While we no longer have close connection to the school, our family did know some directly affected by this tragedy. Many of the nearby schools went into lock down, so it hit close to home for our own kids and caused us to have some heavy conversations as a family.
When I heard news of the shooting on that Wednesday morning, I felt a bit lost and disoriented. How could something like this happen in such a tight-knit community? I reached out to my husband, my kids, my sister to see if the families we knew at Freeman were safe. I checked news channels and social media sites for updates.
At that moment in time, I simply longed to be connected with others.
Some things have been lost as a result of this senseless act. The innocence of children. A sense of security and safety. Most importantly, the life of another human being.
But in the midst of suffering, images of fortitude have risen up. Freeman parents comforting one another. Places of faith opening their doors for prayer and counseling. Resilience being proclaimed through signs and shirts with #FreemanStrong.
Freeman is relying on their grit to persevere through their grief.
Over the summer, one of my favorite books was Sheryl Sandberg’s latest: “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.” In this New York Times best-seller co-written with Adam Grant, Sandberg describes how she coped with the sudden death of her husband.
She explained in great detail how she processed (and is still processing) her grief alongside her young children. It took time and lots of patience, but she was eventually able to embrace gratitude and experience joy again. She discovered that a key to go on living well after such a heartbreaking loss was finding support in community.
One of the insights I’ve appreciated most from Sandberg was actually presented at a 2016 commencement ceremony at the University of California, Berkeley. In her address, she challenged graduating students to not give up when adversity comes:
People crave community, especially in times of crisis. And I believe that connection to others is what enables us to heal and become survivors.
Relationships remind us that we’re human. That it’s okay to scream and cry and grieve in front of another. That we need others to help us process pain and share in the sadness. These connections to others become our lifelines when life becomes too hard.
There’s no denying that difficult days have come to Freeman families and staff. But I’ve witnessed from afar how the community has bonded over the unimaginable.
We often feel powerless when catastrophe strikes. But we can control how we reach out to those who need our support and prayers during difficult times. From what I’ve seen, Freeman is on the path to helping one another heal and rise up as survivors.