Longfellow and Lisa: Contemplations on “I Heard the Bells”

Minerva Teichert’s “Look to the Children”


This is by my sister, Lisa Blair Sabey, contemplating that horrifying day at Arapahoe High School:

Friday, Dec. 13–Daniel and his Arapahoe Singers group were dressed in their knickers, sweaters and winter scarfs as they caroled through the high school halls. His teacher, Parm, who was well ahead of the merry group, heard gunshots from the top of the stairs, and yelled, “Double time to the classroom. NOW!” Daniel ran with his friends, went through the choir room and into a small dressing room, locking the door behind them and turning out the lights. After a tense hour or more, a heavily armed, well-padded SWAT officer knocked on their door and eventually guided them outside with their arms up to be frisked before going to The Good Shepherd church gymnasium close by the high school. Once they reunited with other friends from their school, the reality hit. It wasn’t just a random shooter; it was a classmate they all knew. Karl Pierson, the shooter, was in two of Daniel’s classes—A.P. Econ and A.P. U.S. history. The day before Daniel and this young man had been laughing in history. Now he was not just dead, having committed suicide after shooting a student, but had been dubbed “The Arapahoe Shooter.”

How do you process this at Christmas time? Perhaps just like Longfellow did: “And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said. ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.’”

Mark and Lisa were outside the school waiting anxiously for news about Daniel. Our other children and siblings were praying for Daniel and the other students. We were in a big line outside a designated meeting place with hundreds of worried parents. It was cold. Many parents had rushed to the high school without any coats. As news and rumors filtered slowly out, people were hugging, crying, supporting. Some brought water bottles from their cars. Others brought coats, food, and news. Everyone asked those around them, “Have you heard from your child?” Shivering and waiting for hours outside, we were experiencing Zion together—we were mourning with each other and loving all those around us with open arms and hearts. Since that day, Daniel’s friends, the entire school, and numerous church communities have bonded together in mutual support. There has been an outpouring of good will.

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth good will to men.”

We have experienced this. God is not dead. Christ our Savior descended below all things, but then rose victoriously from the dead with healing in his wings. Good ultimately wins over evil, always. Halleluiah!

About Margaret Blair Young

Margaret Blair Young teaches literature and creative writing at Brigham Young University. For the past fifteen years, she has specialized in the history of blacks in the west, particularly black Mormons. She has written six novels and two short story collections, but has lately become interested in filmmaking. Her current endeavor is a film to be shot in Zambia called Heart of Africa (www.heartofafricafilm.com)


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