The madness of spring

Published 9:57 pm Monday, April 20, 2009

The principal of my high school, Phyllis Booth, was a remarkable woman.

She had a piece of advice, usually a Bible verse, for every situation. Dr. Booth also had a number of “sayings” that she would expound upon for hours, if she could have. Many of these sayings I did not fully understand at the time, but have since found to be utterly true.

One of these truths Dr. Booth repeated often was, essentially, that people go crazy in spring. The emergence of the world from the despair of winter, she would say, brought out the worst in people, especially people who had a mental illness of some sort.

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At the time, I was pretty convinced that Dr. Booth may have had a mental illness of her own. However, as time marches on and I think about it more, I realize she was right.

When Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 of their classmates and a teacher before committing suicide on April 20, 1999 in Littleton, Colo., I was in 9th grade. Dr. Booth, of course, told us that it was a sign of spring. We would later learn that it was the deadliest shooting perpetrated at an American high school, and remains so to this day.

Fast-forward nearly eight years, and I found myself typing a paper for a class in my second semester of graduate school on April 16, 2007, as I watched news coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre, which would turn out to be the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history. I must have been one of the few people in all of Virginia who did not know anybody attending Virginia Tech at that time (my Hokie friends had already graduated), but still I was horrified that one person could accumulate such rage and fury to inflict 32 deaths on innocent people, along with more than two dozen people injured and countless lives irreparably damaged. Again, as I watched the news coverage of this event, Dr. Booth’s words rang in my head.

It’s not just these shootings – so many tragic crimes in America’s history have occurred in April. I offer as evidence:

4April 14, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln was shot while attending a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.

4April 4, 1968 – Civil rights lead Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn.

4April 19, 1995 – A car bomb exploded at a nine-story federal building in Oklahoma City, Okla., killing 168 people – including 19 children.

Granted, these could all be a series of coincidences, but there’s definitely something to be said for the old “violence begets violence” theory. Be safe out there.