It Happens Here

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

On Friday there was yet another school shooting, this time at a middle school. A teacher and a student were both shot by a young middle school boy. It would have been much worse if it weren’t for the brave and selfless act of the science teacher, who ran straight toward the student—and his bullets—tackling him to protect his class.

It happened in my hometown.  

Noblesville, Indiana, where I was raised. Where I grew up. A small town, tucked away in the gentle Midwest.

A town directly next to the town where I currently live; the school where the shooting occurred not ten minutes from where my own kids go to school.

It was the last day of school for my community, and the last day of elementary school for my daughter, so as it happens I was at their school when the incident occurred, watching my daughter and her fellow fourth graders compete in a “lip synch” battle.  As a room full of fourth graders laughed and sang and danced, this text came in to the phones of the parents:

“Due to the situation in Noblesville Schs, WPD will increase presence in/around all WWS buildings day. School day and all activities will continue as normal.”

You could see people starting to look down at their phones, then murmuring to each other, a low buzz of the “something’s happening” energy radiating throughout the room.

Back at the middle school, the students were evacuated and taken over to Noblesville High School, which later was also put on a code red lock down because of a threat made to the building. Parents waited in a sea of concerned family members outside the building for hours trying to re-connect with their children and head safely home.

Since Friday I’ve realized, through personal check-ins, social media, and the good old fashioned grapevine, how many of my childhood friends were directly impacted… some with students in the middle school, some with students in that very classroom, some with students in the high school, some who were first responders. And I’ve been thinking about what a policeman said during the first press conference—he asked us to keep the victims in our prayers, and he said we could all agree that the victims weren’t just those shot, but all the students who went through this traumatic event.  All those students, through the middle and high school, who had to wonder if they were next.   All those students who will never again look at a school building the same way.

It happens here.  

We all know this, of course. There is no place exempt from violence and tragedy. We know this in our heads. But when it actually does come knocking on our own doorsteps… well, that’s when it hits our hearts.

Noblesville???    How could that be?

It happens here.

And I still just can’t get over the contrast in my head—the image of my daughter and her fellow fourth graders celebrating with joy and fun at the very same moment that chaos and tragedy were unfolding just minutes away.

And that is the way it goes with life, isn’t it? Joy turns to sorrow just like that, in a snap. The “normal” that has lulled you into complacency suddenly dissipates into the fading smoke it always was.

So, there is the gun debate part of this (although for the life of me I just can’t understand what there is left to debate anymore).  There are the growing chorus of voices calling for action—for stricter gun laws and more comprehensive mental health services. There are things that can be done that would prevent these kinds of tragedies from happening in the future. Things that I will do, rather than just shake my head the next time something like this happens and say “Oh gosh,” and I hope you will too.

And there is also the “It happens here” part of this, which is a reminder that none of us are exempt from tragedy, in whatever form it takes.

None of us are exempt.

Today is Memorial Day, a day in which we honor those who lost their lives in service to this country. A day of remembering those who died so that that we as a nation could live. Could thrive. Could love.  But how many days do we take living, and loving, for granted?

Don’t take it for granted today. It might not be here tomorrow.


Who do you love? Make sure you tell them today. Tell them. Whether it’s in person or via text or email or phone call, or whether you have to say it to the sky, or toss it as a pebble into the water….    Tell them.

Who loves you? If you’re cool with that, let them. Let them. Let them show you in their own way. Be patient with them. Be kind.

What do you love? Make sure it’s a part of your day today. Whether it’s music, food, a hobby, a tv show, a road trip, a book….   Indulge in it, even if for a moment.

Where do you live? Make sure you look around and actually notice it today. Find the beauty there. Notice.

What wakes you up? Make sure you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch today in ways that connect you to the present moment. Don’t allow yourself to go through the day with your senses dulled. Pay attention.

What can you celebrate? If there is even the slightest thing worth celebrating today, celebrate it. With balloons and cakes and candles and confetti and fireworks. Don’t pass the celebrations by.

What do you want? Make sure you find a way to it. Find your way to it. Start today.

Because it happens here.

Not just the tragedy.  The living, too.

How can you fully live, today?






Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.