The other morning as I was getting ready for work, I heard a disturbing local story from a town just north of me (Everett, Washington) about a grandmother who turned in her grandson to police. The next day, the local paper picked up the story and reported, “the grandmother of Joshua Alexander O’Connor, 18, found alarming journal entries Tuesday at her home on Holly Drive, according to reports filed in court. She called police. An officer pulled O’Connor from class at ACES High School to arrest him.”[i]
On Tuesday, February 13th, after reading her grandson’s journal and finding a semi-automatic weapon inside his guitar case, this grandmother called police in a, rather matter-of-fact, 9-1-1 call.[ii] At some point, officers arrived at the grandmother’s house, where they reviewed the journal entries, which outlined specific plans to shoot up and bomb a local high school (determined, according to the journal, by a coin flip). When the officers looked into the grandson’s room, they identified two grenades and “left the area to get to safety.”[iii] The officers then obtained a warrant to search the home. They also called the school and had the grandson arrested.[iv] Later that day, the grandson was booked into the Snohomish County jail for investigation of attempted first-degree murder. The story said, “police believe O’Connor planned to die in the school shooting.”[v]
I remember being concerned on Wednesday morning about the possibility of a school shooting so close to home and not just because I know kids who attend school in Everett. On Wednesday morning, I was alarmed and thankful that an observant grandmother had, apparently, thwarted a terrible possibility. Around the same time, morning in the Pacific Northwest, it was afternoon in Parkland, Florida. At 2:19 PM Eastern (11:19 AM Pacific), Nikolas Cruz was exiting the Uber he’d taken to the high school he’d been expelled from. By 2:50 PM Eastern (11:50 AM Pacific), Cruz reportedly was at a Walmart, getting a drink, after leaving the school on foot, having killed 12 people in the school, 3 outside the school, and wounding many more, including 2 who died from their injuries, bringing the death toll to 17.[vi]
By Wednesday afternoon, I started hearing the news about Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and realized how close Everett came to being Parkland. As the local NBC affiliate, King 5, reported, “According to court documents, O’Connor wrote in entries dated in January 2018: ‘I can’t wait to walk into class and blow all those (expletives) away,’ and ‘I need to make this shooting/bombing infamous. I need to get the biggest fatality number I possible can.”[vii] His journal entries also indicated he was learning from other school shootings and bombings.[viii]
I remember the terrible workplace shooting in San Bernardino, California, in December of 2015, that killed 14 people.[ix] In the aftermath, some outlets reported the possibility that a neighbor suspected suspicious activity by the husband and wife shooters but didn’t say anything. A KTLA 5 story reported a friend of that neighbor as saying, “she’s like, ‘I didn’t call it in . . . maybe it was just me thinking something that’s not there.’”[x] Tragically, it turned out something wasn’t nothing.
Everett wasn’t Parkland on Wednesday because a grandmother was able to imagine the unthinkable – that her grandson was capable of murder. When she read those journal entries, she didn’t slip into a state of denial. Instead, she kept reading, kept looking, and, when her worst fears began to take shape, she didn’t keep them to herself. She told someone; she called 9-1-1.
That grandmother did what we’ve all been told we’re supposed to do since 911 – if you see something, say something. We then expect the authorities to respond – if you say something, we’ll do something. On Tuesday, that equation worked in Everett; on Wednesday, it didn’t in Parkland.[xi]
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE
and author of 36 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years
ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities
for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center •
A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington,
creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health
issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and