It was on this day, 17 years ago, and two years after Columbine, that a 15 year old student at Santana High School in Santee pulled out a gun and opened fire, first in a bathroom, where he shot two students, and then out on the school’s quad, where he opened fire on students and teachers.
Charles Andy Williams ended up surrendering but not before killing two of his fellow students and wounding 13 others, including two staff members at the school. He was heard by some students before the shooting that he was going to “pull a Columbine.”
Just two weeks later, a an 18 year old former student named Jason Hoffman walked onto the campus at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon, only a few miles from Santana High, and opened fire on the school’s attendance office. No one was killed but five were wounded before an El Cajon police officer assigned to the school because of what had happened at Santana High School just two weeks earlier, shot and wounded him.
Both shooters at those East County high schools in 2001 were described to have mental health issues. The Santana killer was sentenced to life in prison. The Granite Hills shooter killed himself in a prison cell with his bedsheets.
Now 17 years later, after the latest of what has been a series of school shootings over the years, the latest in Florida, the same questions that were being asked then, are being asked today.
Questions about the easy access to guns and background checks. Questions about mental health and security of school campuses and questions about arming teachers.
And the biggest question of all: how do we stop these school shootings from happening once and for all. After all these years, sadly, the questions remain unanswered.
And the answers to those questions 17 years after Santana and 19 years after Columbine are now probably harder to answer.
That’s because over all these years, the reasons that are blamed for school shootings have only gotten worse, from access to more powerful guns, to insufficient mental health care for young men, to the continued break-up of the American family and more homes without fathers.
Let’s hope the aftermath of the most recent school shooting in Florida and the pleas from young people will lead to our government and our society finally doing something that will change things. We can only hope, and pray.
PHOTO BELOW: Returning Santana High School students hold one another in front of a makeshift memorial as they return to school on March 7th 2001 following the shooting spree by a fellow student that killed two and injured 13 in Santee. (Photo credit Scott Nelson/AFP/Getty Images)