Since such attacks are exceedingly rare, many of us may find comfort in the belief that such an attack 'couldn't happen here,' for one reason or another. And for some time afterward, I too fell into this manner of thinking.
But then a number of local incidents threatened to shatter this reassuring fiction. On Jan. 25, three Sunnyvale schools were locked down during a search for a reported gunman. The next day, it turned out the story was a fabrication.
On Feb. 14, a Mountain View High School senior wore camouflage and a gas mask to school on Valentine's Day, in ironic reference to the school's theme for the holiday: "Love is in the air." The Voice reported, "According to Mountain View police, all patrol units, school resource officers, traffic units and detectives immediately rushed to the school, along with officers from Los Altos Police Department. Police set up a perimeter around the school and officers saturated the neighborhood looking for the subject."
On April 1, the service that provides after-school care at my son's public school in the Mountain View Whisman School District received a threat, and this fact was relayed to the school community. On further investigation, we were told that the Foster City Police Department "concluded that there (was) no substantive, credible threat."
One current that runs through each of these three events is that while none of the incidents posed a real threat, any one of them easily could have been. Is there a chance we as a community could collectively tire of such false alarms, and then not see a legitimate threat for what it is?
Another current is the intense response that often accompanies such situations. While none of these local events triggered a response on par with the police reaction to the Boston Marathon bombing, might the next one?
There are a number of complex issues at play. Our local schools are relatively open, and this is an asset when all is well. Guns are available for sale in Mountain View, and have not led to any issues in the hands of responsible citizens. Mental health services do everything they can to intervene when someone needs help, but what of the patients or individuals who need more help than they get?
On Thursday, May 30, at the Mountain View Senior Center from 7 to 9 p.m. the city's Human Relations Commission will convene its third Civility Roundtable, entitled "Could Sandy Hook Happen Here?" Residents and workers in Mountain View are invited to come take part in a discussion with community leaders and each other on this complex topic. Special guests in the discussion moderated by Chris Block of the American Leadership Forum include Craig Goldman, the superintendent of the Mountain View Whisman School District, Captain Max Bosel of the Mountain View Police Department, a representative of the Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC), and Gary Kolander, owner of the Bay Area Gun Vault.
We hope you can join us and be part of the discussion.