The first bullet hit 21-year-old Riley Howell in the torso.
He kept going. So the gunman shot him again.
Riley continued to rush toward him, and wrestled him to the ground. Before or after they hit the floor, the gunman shot Riley in the head.
Riley’s father, Thomas Howell, is a trauma nurse. He saw his son’s body and the evidence.
Think about that for a moment.
He described for The New York Times how he thought Riley died on that last day in April. “This was burned,” he said, pointing to his jawbone near his right ear. “That bullet went up into his brain and killed him.”
The shooter had already killed one student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Four others were injured. Because of his courage, Riley was the last person to die
Seven days later, 18-year-old Kendrick Ray Castillo was sitting in English class at his school in suburban Denver when a gunman burst through the door and ordered students not to move.
Kendrick rushed the shooter.
Nui Giascolli told NBC’s The Today Show what happened next.
“And (the gunman) shot Kendrick, giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe, and to run across the room to escape.” Kendrick’s bravery, she said, gave several other boys a chance to tackle the shooter to the floor. More heroes.
Eight students were injured at STEM School Highlands Ranch. Kendrick was the only one who died.
His father, John Castillo, described his only child for the Denver Post: “He cared enough about people that he would do something like that… I wish he had gone and hid, but that’s not his character. His character is about protecting people, helping people.”
Please note his shift to present tense. That’s not his character. His character is…
CNN reports that, so far this year, there have been 15 school shootings in which someone was killed or injured. Last year at this time, CNN reported that since 2009, there had been 288 school shootings, which is 57 times more than the combined total of Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom.
How often do we see news of yet another school shooting and tell ourselves there is nothing we can do? These random massacres. The NRA and its Republican sycophants in Congress and state legislatures, in governors’ offices and in the White House. All this “partisan bickering” over gun law reform. It’s all too much.
We share posts of anger and despair on Facebook and Twitter. “I am just one person, the mantra goes. There is only so much I could do.”
And so the children see us do nothing.
Here in Ohio, nearly half of the Republican house majority is supporting another stunt of a bill that would make us the 17th state to allow people to buy and carry concealed guns without a permit, and eliminate the minimum eight hours of training. The law would also expand concealed carry to include rifles and shotguns, and no longer require motorists stopped by police to reveal they are carrying concealed weapons.
They are mocking us. Poll after poll shows the majority of Americans support tougher gun laws. But Republicans refuse to stand up to the gun lobby because they do not fear the consequences of a silent and passive majority.
The day after the Colorado school shooting, two images showed up, one after another, in my timeline on Twitter. The first was a photo of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry introducing their newborn son to the world. The looks on their faces. I hope never to tire of new parents beholding their miracle.
The other image was KDVR reporter Ashley Michels’ photo of terrorized young children huddled together after the shooting at the STEM school. A little girl in pink, one side of her eyeglasses obscured by a ringlet of her hair, appears to be crying. Next to her, two boys cling to each other. Another girl stands close to them, visibly frightened.
What if each of us — parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles — could recall that moment when we first laid eyes on that new miracle in our lives. Might that remind us of our promises to those babies? Might we remember who we thought we would be?
If we aren’t doing everything we can to prevent more gun violence in this country, we aren’t doing enough. Look at the faces of those little ones huddled together in terror. Long before they have the words for it, children tell us our legacy.
If we continue to do nothing, this will be our story.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (firstname.lastname@example.org) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.