I have internally debated over the years about sharing this story on social media, however I have only shared it with a few select individuals from time to time when the occasion called for it. I consider myself a private person for many reasons, number one being for my safety and well being. As I type this, I keep editing it and then promptly deleting it and thinking: “Who cares? I mean, really? But then.. Maybe.. I’ll do it for me because I can’t stop thinking of its importance.. all these years later? Yeah, that’s enough, right? Well, here it goes..“
It was the year 2000, I was in the seventh grade, first period music class was being held in the cafeteria, we had a substitute, thus it naturally became a free study period to do as we pleased. I chose to catch up on homework, being the studious kid I was. I found myself caught in the middle of a paper wad fight between two boys. I quickly became annoyed so I collected the stray wads on and around my work-space as they came and sat on them. The bell rang, one of the boys demanded I give him back the paper wads, I stubbornly refused, he persisted, but I stayed put. The bell rang again, he finally acknowledged my unwavering tenacity, and he retreated in a panic per his tardiness which garnered an automatic demerit.
My never-ending curiosity was ignited, so my girl friend helped me open each paper wad to discover the reason for his persistence. One by one, we unraveled doodles, rough drafts of assignments, blanks, and then finally.. There was an organized hit list in his handwriting, first victim was the music teacher who was absent that day, who coincidentally was a neighbor of mine. The list continued: fellow classmates who held popular statuses, infamous teachers, an unpopular Office Administrator, and the rest were unbeknownst to us. How I knew it was his handwriting was because I knew this kid, we grew up down the block from one another, we were in the same classes together, our sisters were in the same Brownies/Girl Scouts troop, I had been to his house numerous times, I knew his father was a Police Officer and an avid gun collector (recalling his locked wooden/glass case in the living room).
My girl friend and I quickly discussed what we should do: she asked, “Is that a..?” I nodded. She proceeded, “Do you think he’s capable of doing something like this?!” I nodded. [crickets] I had flashbacks, seeing black and white surveillance footage of kids fleeing their school cafeteria the year before on every TV channel and thought: “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let this go.” I handed her the hit list wad and said: “Give this to that substitute, tell him everything, if he doesn’t seem interested, then take it to your dad!” Her father was our Math teacher and the head football coach who tolerated no nonsense. I continued in the same breath whilst gathering my books, “I better hurry so he doesn’t suspect (“he” as in the boy), we have second period together too!“
He was expelled from Butler County schools for two years, I heard from my mom that he was home-schooled by his mother, and attended counseling until.. he was deemed safe to return to the public school system. We saw each other again in our ninth grade Civics class, he sat right behind me, I silently feared for my life everyday for a year, never speaking of it again until well after my academic career.
Fast forward years later, I decided to move out on my own, I went to a local furniture store to compare prices, I saw him from across the sales floor, he was their delivery employee, sporting a lower lumbar back brace support belt with suspenders, I abruptly averted my gaze, formulated a quick exit strategy, so I “browsed” in record time and left before he noticed me.
I find myself thinking of this often, now more than ever, and I think it’s important to.. Go with your gut, listen to your conscience, and act. I think I was meant to be there. I was at the right place, at the right time, and under the right circumstances to.. Help this boy, my school, and myself. I felt a duty to do so because I was fortunate enough to realize this was a serious matter. At the age of 12. Yes, 12. I am proud of myself for acting. I could have just.. disregarded it, went on with my day, maybe gossiped about it to a couple classmates, or occasionally pondered.. But by then, it may have been too late. This was an invaluable lesson that taught me.. That the real world is a scary place, but one person can make a difference. I chose and choose to be that one person. I implore you to be that one person. I’m counting on you. You can count on me.
*To those few who are my junior high classmates (their parents too), you may or may not of heard of this almost happening at our/your child's school, but it's true. I thought of you and am thankful you're still here today. I am thankful I am still here. I hope you are too. **Originally posted via social media on February 15th, 2018 ***Re-shared via social media on May 25th, 2022 ****Utilized writing prompt to share via blog: "Have you ever spoken up when you saw something going on that was wrong? Were you scared? What ended up happening?"