Just after 8 p.m. on Friday night, my wife and I witnessed hundreds of kids running in multiple directions. They were panicked and sprinting away from the football field and bleachers at Parkway North High School in St. Louis County.
Our daughter, Madison, was among those kids.
I stopped a kid and asked what was going on. He yelled, “Somebody’s got a gun!”
Madison called me asking where I was. She said she was near the fence where we dropped her off. The parking lot and adjoining spaces were filled with screaming kids and drivers trying to get off the lot. I flashed my headlights and Madison ran to the car and hopped in the backseat. My wife navigated me through the mayhem and we got off the lot as police cruisers raced by.
Official reports say there were shots fired. My wife and I didn’t hear any gunshots, but we didn’t get close enough to investigate either. Our daughter attended Parkway North’s Football Jamboree – which is essentially a series of scrimmages between high school teams. Several schools in the St. Louis area host them. Jamborees are a fun way to kick off the football season and have become popular social events for kids.
Teens from the host schools, participating schools and kids from other schools come out to enjoy the festivities. We dropped Madison off at about 6:30 p.m. and went to a restaurant not more than five minutes to grab a quick bite to eat. We finished our meal at about 7:45 and my wife suggested we go back to the school and wait for the jamboree to end. Our goal was to pick Madison up and get off the parking lot before post-event traffic became a mess.
It’s terrifying to see hundreds of kids running for their lives and know your kid is among them. As scared as we were, my wife and I are among the lucky ones. We picked our kid up within a few minutes after the commotion started and got home safely. Many families haven’t been as fortunate. More than a dozen kids have been killed in the St. Louis area since April. Jurnee Thompson, 8, was shot and killed Friday night while with family at Soldan High’s Football Jamboree.
There’s nothing wrong with anyone going to a high school football event. They’re designed with the community in mind. You’re supposed to bring your kids and they’re supposed to have a good time. Kids shouldn’t be running for their lives on second down or at any other time.
Is there anywhere in St. Louis, or in America, that kids can go without fear of getting killed? Our number one job as adults is to keep kids safe and we’re currently derelict in our duty. What’s wrong with us? Do we have too many weapons on our streets and too little morality in our hearts? Maybe? Probably? But those are philosophical and political discussions that won’t save any lives right now.
We need to focus on what will save lives right now. Kids will attend football games this weekend. Does the host school have an adequate security and police presence? This isn’t a rhetorical question. Call your local school district, ask about security and if fans will be checked before coming in for games. Talk with your kids about having a designated safe spot for you to pick them up in case something happens at a game, dance, or wherever. Keep phone locators on when your kids are out of your sight.
This isn’t meant to scare anyone. We have to make sure we’re doing all we can to keep our kids safe. Enjoy all the time you spend with your families and be careful.