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Chester County Press

Small problems that point to global concerns

11/17/2015 01:53PM ● By J. Chambless

The large crowd of parents and school officials that turned out for the Nov. 11 “Community Conversation” on safety at Unionville High School was a clear indication that people are concerned.

Sparked by incidents that loomed large for a few weeks – a loaded gun mistakenly left in a car at the middle school, a small knife spotted in a student's car at the high school – the meeting was a chance to reassure parents that there is no immediate danger facing students in Chester County schools. But district superintendent John Sanville and Charles Gaza of the Chester County District Attorney's Office painted a sobering picture of the reality that nobody wants to face.

Gaza outlined the disaster training that local police departments have had, just in case a madman with a gun or a bomb decides to strike. It is, of course, extremely unlikely that anything will happen here. But then, the world thought that no one would walk into an elementary school and open fire until that awful day at Sandy Hook in 2012.

Today, as parents learned at the meeting, there are number stickers by every door in every school in the district, so that response teams can orient themselves quickly in the chaos of an armed attack. There are security cameras and a check-in system that at least puts a person and a window between students and the outside world. There is shatter-resistant coating on entry doors at every building.

Parents sat in silence as a video was shown. In one scene, a masked intruder fires once into a glass door and walks in after the glass disintegrates instantly. In the next scene, an armed man shoots repeatedly at a door treated with a safety film on it, and he spends a minute and a half kicking the glass and firing again before he finally peels a hole big enough to climb through.

As Sanville said, the district hopes that the safety features will never be tested. No one wants to see if these measures – both seen and unseen – at the district's schools will actually stop or deter a deranged person.

On Sept. 13, of course, the world got another wake-up call in Paris.

The same queasy feeling we had as 9/11 unfolded has now gripped us all again. It is madness, it is inexplicable, but it is not on our doorstep – at least not this time. But it will be. Cowards consumed with their own perversion of Islam will stop at nothing to destabilize a world they see as evil. They want to light the world on fire and watch it burn.

It may not be ISIS that strikes us next. It may be a disgruntled man with a grudge. But the scary thing is that it is so easy. It doesn't take a network of spies or satellite surveillance or any particular cunning to walk into a place where people are gathered and start killing. It could happen at a football game. It could happen at a parade. It could happen at the movies. It could happen at a school.

Despite all the measures we take – whether it's more police training, more cameras, more checkpoints and more intrusion into all of our lives – there is, essentially, nothing we can do to stop evil with a weapon.

The incidents at Unionville seem so small now, so benign, but they point to a larger issue that is being played out today around the world. We have to be vigilant. We have to prepare. We have to go on with our lives, but we have to keep an eye open for the next time madness will strike.

So yes, pray for Paris. And pray for us all.

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