Canada

Denver shootings echo in Brampton

Two young men wearing long black trench coats approach the Columbine High School.

They pull out weapons and open fire in the parking lot. They proceed inside, to the school cafeteria, shooting as they walk, then upstairs to the library, still shooting. As bullets ricochet throughout the building, scores of students hide in closets, bathrooms, under tables and chairs. Some students, barricaded behind a heavy door, whisper of their terror over cell-phone calls to relatives.

When tragedies of this magnitude happen, we often ask - could this happen here? Well, it did - in Brampton, in 1975. A young man snuck two guns to school in a guitar case - then opened fire. Yesterday's shooting brought back the memories of that even to many who witnessed it.

Michael Slobodian, a sixteen year old student wandered the hallways with two automatic weapons. He shot 12 people - killing his English teacher and another student - before turning the weapon on himself.

Almost 25 years later, the shooting is still an emotional topic at Centennial. Malcom Hamilton is a teacher at Notre Dame Secondary school in Brampton. He was a hall monitor at Centennial when the shooting started.

"We were walking down the business wing," Hamilton recalls,"and actually saw the barrel of a gun coming down the hall. We jumped into the business wing, heard more bangs, stuck our head out, heard more bangs..."

Hamilton discussed the Denver massacre - and the non-stop coverage of it - with his students this morning.

"If you make it such a large media event, it becomes a more attractive venue for people who are disaffected, who are alienated, who are looking to make a statement on the way out."

Hamilton suggests that school counsellors and psychologists look out for students at risk. "I think you can do things to bring people into a sense of belonging. Thinking back, I think there was a lot of people who think they could have made a difference in the end, 25 years ago. I think that same type of reflection will go on in Denver."

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