Wednesday morning, Mattoon High School turned into an area of chaos and concern. By the time the dust settled, a tragedy had taken place, but it ended with an injury and a number of people shaken but still alive. It could have been much worse.
We can thank some level-headed people in Mattoon for that outcome.
About 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to police and eyewitnesses, a student opened fire in the Mattoon High School cafeteria and wounded a fellow student before being subdued by teacher Angela McQueen, who served as the first of the day's many heroes. Police said the shooter was then disarmed by the police department's on-site school resource officer.
The terror didn't stop at the school's doors. As law enforcement authorities closed in on the area, they chased residents inside with admonishments to lock doors.
Mattoon School District Superintendent Larry Lilly said emergency responders were quick in taking the wounded student to the hospital, taking the suspect into custody and securing the school, and the district accounted for all of the students soon after the shooting.
The shooter, a juvenile, is in custody. The name of that student and the wounded student are being withheld.
Quick thinking inside the school and the efforts of first responders and law enforcement officials arriving on the scene kept a cap on what could have been a horrifying day. But it's what happened later in the day that speaks volumes.
You can tell a great deal about people by the way they respond in the wake of emergency and tragedy.
Unfortunately, we've seen too many Central Illinois residents forced to respond to too many emergencies and tragedies lately. But thankfully, almost to a person, our friends and neighbors have reacted positively and nobly and in a way we should all strive to imitate and recreate daily.
The latest example of responding kindly, carefully and empathetically comes from Mattoon. Within a few hours of the shooting, a crowd of about 200 gathered for a prayer vigil. The crowd, a mix of adults and teenagers and including some Mattoon city and school officials, were in a field just west of the high school, and could see police officers still in front of the building.
When things are at their worst is when we find the most strength from one another. The fellowship and understanding that comes from a shared experience, even a tragic one, can be uplifting when done in the right fashion. Fortunately, on Wednesday, Mattoon overflowed with courage, fellowship, helpfulness and thoughtfulness.
-- JG-TC Editorial Board