Recalling an earlier school tragedy

Kip Kinkel is a household name in the southern Willamette Valley of Oregon.

But don’t expect a resident of the region to utter a kind remark about a young man who, as a teenager, committed a heinous act of violence. The PBS program “Frontline” revisited a horrific event recently — which was aired on KACV-TV — and it brought back hideous memories to those who remember the terror that Kinkel brought to a local high school.

On May 15, 1998, Kinkel — who was then 15 — shot his parents to death and entered Thurston High School in Springfield, where he killed two people and wounded 25 others. A court sentenced Kinkel to 111 years in prison. Kinkel, who is now 30, is appealing his conviction, claiming that he received inadequate legal counsel.

The broadcast is posted online at:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/social-issues/killer-at-thurston-high/fourteen-years-later-looking-back-at-a-school-shooting/

The timeliness of this rebroadcast — which was shown initially on Jan. 18, 2000 — haunts our souls. It comes just days after the infamous Newtown, Conn., shootings in which a young shooter killed 27 people, including 20 children, six teachers and his mother. Unlike Kip Kinkel, Adam Lanza chose to take his own life after committing such carnage.

Kinkel did leave a peculiar piece of evidence: a recorded confession to his ghastly crime.

Our nation continues to grapple with its emotions during this Christmas season. This is a time of joy. It’s also a time of reflection, grief and intense sadness for communities that know the intense pain these tragedies can bring.

Two communities separated by a huge country — Springfield, Ore., and Newtown, Conn. — are enduring a shared misery.

“The Killer at Thurston High” relives an earlier pain. Just as every resident in Newtown knows the name of the young man who brought them pain, so do those out west in Springfield remember a teenager who lives in shame.

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