COLUMN: Difficult solutions shouldn’t stop us from looking

As we move through emotions following random attack on school kids, we should be wondering if it was preventable

Shocking. Violent. Tragic. Frightening.

These are the words that swam in my head Tuesday, as more and more details emerged about the double stabbing in Abbotsford, and death of 13-year-old Latisha Reimer.

But as this week has worn on I find myself wondering, was it preventable?

School districts are likely wondering the same, as they review lockdown procedures and locked-door policies. So are the RCMP, who are trying to find any clues as to why someone would do such a thing.

We always want to know the ‘why.’ But, do we need to know? Will it ever make sense? I doubt it.

Still, it could help identify what led to Gabriel Klein entering Abby secondary and attacking those girls. The idea, supposedly, is if we know why he did it, we can prevent it from happening in the future.

And that takes digging into his backstory. And somebody, somewhere knows his backstory.

It could be a school principal from wherever he came from, apparently Alberta. It could be a relative. Maybe a foster parent. A social worker. A childhood friend. A family doctor. A pharmacist. A police officer or security guard who was familiar with him.

Someone.

Because none of us live in a bubble, completely cut off from the world. Even so-called “drifters.” This is the word that was used this week to label the suspected killer.

I don’t know who used it first, the police or the media. But it made me shudder.

A drifter, by definition, is someone who moves from place to place, often in search of work; yet that’s too benign for what took place Tuesday. A drifter, by horror movie definition, is always the killer; yet there is nothing cinematic or entertaining about a real person’s death.

So for me, to label Klein a drifter is somewhat reckless. A better descriptor would be homeless, and likely drug addicted.

I can’t help but believe that this is a person who fell through some crack at some point in his life. And to me, that thought brings me circling back to that question — was this preventable?

Was there someone out there that he slipped away from? Has he done this before and not been caught? Has he made threats that were ignored? Did he age out of social services and slip out of proper caring hands? Was he delusional? On a street drug?

Was there somewhere he could have been, rather than walking the streets? And is there a way to keep people like this out of schools, which should be bastions of safety for our children?

Parents in Chilliwack are already starting to draw the close connection between this reportedly homeless man winding up in a school, and the homeless people that were living adjacent to schools in Chilliwack back in September.

They were afraid something would happen if a line wasn’t drawn in the sand.

They were afraid a child would be hurt by a discarded needle at best, a crazed drug user at worst.

They joined forces, linked arms, spoke up and took action.

And something tells me they won’t stand for calling this unpreventable, or unpredictable. None of us should.

Jessica Peters is a reporter with the Chilliwack Progress

 

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