Despite the trauma of the shooting at Mattoon High School, we should be a grateful community.

We first are in debt to teacher Angela McQueen, who reportedly subdued the juvenile shooter in the MHS cafeteria on Sept. 20, and to police officer Kasey Alexander, who disarmed the 14-year-old.

We owe a heart-felt "thank you" to all the law enforcement, school district and other personnel who helped get the rest of the students in the school that day to safety and, as needed, treated for injuries.

We are grateful that there was no more than one shooting victim, who is reported to be steadily recovering.

Our gratitude extends to members of our own community, who have shown a unity that will help those closest to this incident heal, and to area schools and towns which have shown support. A prayer vigil, a fund-raising T-shirt effort and more have come in the wake of the shooting.

We have many answers as to what happened that day. We know a greater tragedy was averted thanks to McQueen and Alexander. We know students were whisked to safety quickly. We know grateful parents hugged and held their children like perhaps they never had in the wake of this incident.

We know that the Mattoon community is strong -- stronger than perhaps we, ourselves, even may have believed.

Now, we must watch and help each other as time goes on and the magnitude of this event truly sinks in. We must continue to care for each other. In particular, we must keep in mind that our young people will need extra support for a long time to come.

But, as with others across the country, this school shooting raises questions.

Bullying has been noted as possibly related to the young shooting suspect's motivation -- not by officials, but by those close to the alleged shooter.

The root cause of this incident must be determined.

Make no mistake, however: The juvenile who chose to take a gun to school and begin to shoot at students is responsible for this incident. That is where blame rests.

Yet, we still have questions that must be answered. Did bullying, in some way, contribute to this shooting? Do security measures at Mattoon schools need to be beefed up?

We hope school leaders won't be overly defensive if bullying and other policies are reviewed. Answering these questions will be designed not to assign blame but to prevent any possible future shooting at a Mattoon school.

We're heartened -- and not surprised -- by Friday's statement from school and law enforcement officials in which plans to review the district's emergency protocols in light of the shooting are noted. That can't hurt, although in this case it appears the school's emergency plans worked well.

Yet questions outside the scope of the school response are numerous.

How did the suspected shooter get the semiautomatic handgun he used? How do any of the children who instigate a shooting at school in the United States get the guns involved? We hope anti-gun advocates won't be overzealous, and pro-gun folks won't be unnecessarily defensive, in fairly exploring this question.

The primary question, it seems, is this: What will we learn from this? Will we, in fact, learn from it at all?

Bullying has been around as long as any of us can remember. But students decades ago didn't bring a gun to school and start shooting. Then again, in days gone by, bullying often could be escaped by simply going home from school. Now, social media gives abusers the chance to bully their victims 24/7.

There is only so much schools can do to solve these problems. The community must step up and be involved in the search for answers, too.

We'll never have all the answers to all these questions and others that will come out of this situation.

But we have to be brave enough to at least ask, and then act.

-- JG-TC Editorial Board


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