NOBLESVILLE, IND. ó This city, on a normal day, is among the safest in America. Families move here and stay here for two common reasons: a sense of personal security and the opportunity to send their children to great schools. Today was far from normal.
At 9:06 a.m., America's ongoing national nightmare shattered this community's sense of security. A shooter, still unidentified, opened fire at Noblesville West Middle School, wounding an adult and a student.
"None of us are going to be the same after today," Dane Carter told me outside Noblesville High School, where he and hundreds of other frightened and worried parents waited to reunite with their children.
Carter's daughter ó 13-year-old Liz ó was inside Noblesville West when the shooting began. Carter had yet to speak with his daughter, but his wife, a first grade teacher at a nearby elementary, made it into the middle school before it was locked down. She called Carter to say their daughter was safe.
"It's obviously scary. But I think she will be OK," Carter said. "She is a tough kid who is grounded in her faith."
Keena Rassat also was anxiously waiting to hug her daughter, 12-year-old Natalie, who was safe but shaken by the violence.
"She sounded pretty scared on the phone," Rassat said. "I was so scared coming over here. I was trying not to think about how this will affect her."
The memories of what happened here today will haunt thousands of children and parents for years, if not lifetimes. It's likely to be remembered in this community, where the well-being and education of children come first, for decades.
But outside of Hamilton County, outside of Indiana? It'll be forgotten before this weekend's news cycle ends. After all, it was only a week ago that a shooter killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School in Texas. USA TODAY reported today that the Noblesville West attack was the 21st incident this year in which someone had been shot at a school.
That fact ought to shake us to our souls.
"This is purely on the person who pulled the trigger," Dane Carter said as he waited for his wife and daughter. "And maybe his parents."
In a real sense, he's right. It is all, or at least mostly, on the shooter.
But are we finally ready to admit, America, that we have a much deeper set of problems? A high school shot up last week. A middle school this week. Twenty-one schools where gun violence has erupted in five months.
This can't be the new normal. This can't be accepted.
I won't pretend, as I sit in a Starbucks writing this a mile or so away from where the frantic parents of 12- and 13-year-olds wait to comfort their children, that I have all of the answers. Or maybe any of the answers.
But I do know that if children aren't safe on a beautiful May morning in almost always peaceful Noblesville, Ind., they are not safe anywhere. And we should stop pretending otherwise.
Can we also stop, before this story fades, to think about that reality? Can we set aside all of the old arguments long enough to worry along with Keena Rassat about how the violence will affect 12-year-old Natalie ó and the thousands of children like her across America?
Can we engage with one another and with our leaders in the hard conversations about what must change? Can we finally take the necessary steps to drive that change?
Like all of those worried parents in Noblesville this morning, America is waiting for answers.