It is a common misconception that the more media attention an individual or event gets, the more important it is. Why do so many people want to be on t.v.? Does the fact that they are on t.v. and watched by a large audience somehow make that person more important or valuable? Our society would say yes but I disagree.
The Columbine Massacre was played out live on national television. It garnered the attention of celebrities and the president. It wasn’t just the United States either, people all over the world knew about Columbine. My family has always hosted many exchange students and all of them had heard of Columbine. My family received hundreds of gifts and letters, and we met President Clinton, Al Gore and Collin Powell. Courtney Cox and John Elway sent us gifts. The Packers sent flowers to John’s funeral. Oprah’s team came to interview my parents. My family was in the newspapers and on t.v. Reporters were at our house.
Not to discredit all of the kind deeds people did after Columbine, we definitely appreciated everyone’s love and support, but the media attention we could have done without. It didn’t mean anything to us. I had a friend at school who said she saw me on the news. She was obviously excited and thought I would be too. I could have cared less. We were getting attention because John was brutally murdered, it’s not like I won a gold medal and had something to be excited about. Our world was turned upside down and our hearts raw with pain. Think about the most heartbreaking, vulnerable time of your life and then imagine cameras and reporters in your face trying to capture your pain to make the news story that much better. Imagine pouring your heart out in an interview and giving the reason for your hope and the reason you can get out of bed in the morning, just to have the media edit it all out and focus on your grief. Imagine having to relive the worst day of your life over and over and years and years after the fact.
We also had to deal with people who genuinely seemed jealous of the attention Columbine got. People would say, shootings happen all the time, it’s only because it happened to white kids in the suburbs that it’s on the news. Which yes, shootings happen frequently, but it’s not common to be shot by basically a complete stranger…at school. People who had seen atrocities in other countries almost wondered why Columbine was such a big deal. This sentiment brings me back to my post on comparing suffering. Just because horrible tragedies happen all over the world doesn’t make my brother being murdered less important or heartbreaking, but people were assuming that because Columbine was getting so much attention, it somehow was portrayed as more important. My brother’s death isn’t more important than the teenager that dies a quiet death from cancer, but it’s also not less tragic because he was white and lived in middle class America.
I really grew to hate the media but now that much time has passed I can see how the media can be a good thing. I have the privilege of having a memorial with my brother’s name on it where people can come and learn a little about his life and remember him. On the news every year, my brother’s face and name is remembered. While that can be really hard to see, at the same time I feel lucky that others remember my brother even seventeen years later. Also, my parents were able to bring God’s message of hope to many people who, without the platform of Columbine, they wouldn’t have been able to reach. God used John’s testimony to reach hundreds of people, and for that I am grateful. We heard so many stories of the good God brought from John’s death.
God can use these platforms to reach many people for Him but just because millions of people don’t hear your story or sympathize with your pain, doesn’t make your suffering any less meaningful. I believe if we have surrendered our lives to Christ, He will bring good out of our pain and suffering. So to those of you suffering silently, just know that your pain is no less important than those in the limelight. Someday we will realize how God was sewing all of our heartaches together to make a beautiful story.