The mainstream media uses the term "school shootings" because it fits nicely into their narrative that guns are to blame and therefore law-abiding citizens should be disarmed. But by limiting their discussion only to shootings, they ignore the worst school massacre in U.S. history which wasn't a shooting at all.
Virginia Tech, 2007: 33 dead.
Newtown, Connecticut, 2012: 28 dead.
University of Texas, 1966: 16 dead.
Columbine, Colorado, 1999: 15 dead.
This is Bath Township, Michigan, 1927: 45 dead and not a single shooting death.
May 18, 1927. Andrew Kehoe, school board treasurer, unleashed pure evil on the Bath Township school by detonating dynamite and pyrotol firebombs.
8:45 AM - Multiple explosions are heard on Kehoe's farm. Neighbors rush to find every building on his property ablaze. They also find that Kehoe had trapped his animals in the barn assuring their deaths. Kehoe's wife had been bludgeoned to death but her body was so unrecognizable that it was not found until the next day. Kehoe is seen fleeing the scene in his truck but stops to ominously tell the volunteers fighting the fire, "Boys, you're my friends. You better get out of here. You better head down to the school."
9:30 AM - Classes begin at the Bath Consolidated School.
9:40 AM - An alarm clock detonates a 500-Lb dynamite and pyrotol bomb that Kehoe had hidden in the north end of the school basement. The explosion lifted part of the building several feet before it collapsed. First-grade teacher Bernice Sterling: "After the first shock I thought for a moment I was blind. When it came the air seemed to be full of children and flying desks and books. Children were tossed high in the air; some were catapulted out of the building." Volunteer rescuer Monty Ellsworth: "There was a pile of children of about five or six under the roof and some of them had arms sticking out, some had legs, and some just their heads sticking out. They were unrecognizable because they were covered with dust, plaster, and blood. There were not enough of us to move the roof."
9:45 AM - A second 500-Lb dynamite and pyrotol bomb hidden in the south end of the basement fails to detonate. Investigators found it later and speculated that the first blast may have damaged its circuitry preventing detonation.
10:15 AM - Andrew Kehoe drives up to the school with a shrapnel-laden bomb filling his vehicle. Accounts differ whether he summoned the school's superintendent close to the vehicle to purposefully kill him or not but in either case, Superintendent Huyck and several others, including Kehoe himself, were killed in this final explosion. Kehoe had a rifle in his possession when he died but never turned it on anyone.
Below are the remains of Kehoe's car bomb. To my knowledge, in the aftermath of the killings, no one suggested that cars be banned but, of course, Americans were less enlightened then.
Motive for the massacre was attributed to Kehoe's opposition to a new tax levy that was used to fund the school. It was ironic, I suppose, that Kehoe was on the school board and served as the treasurer however townspeople reportedly chose him for his miserly ways. Yet, Kehoe was facing foreclosure on his farm for which he blamed the imposition of the new levy. But this is hardly a satisfactory explanation.
Like most mass killings, mental illness is at the core. Kehoe was known as a violent person long before the massacre. He once beat a horse to death.
Furthermore, the financial explanation doesn't quite add up, at least with a sane mind. Kehoe spent considerable money -- and over a year's time -- purchasing the explosives. What's more, investigators found enough unused equipment and materials on his farm that could have easily paid off his debts.
Fast forward to our current tragedy, on December 14, 2012 -- the same day of the Newtown killings -- a world away, a 36-year-old man walked into a grade school and stabbed 22 children. In China, guns are banned so attackers generally use knives and meat cleavers.
Whether in America or in China or anywhere else, my heart breaks for every one of these kids and their families. Like most parents, I cannot hear of these tragedies without my mind's eye reconstructing the scene in my own kids' school house. And I'm moved to tears.
In the aftermath of Andrew Kehoe's 1927 Bath massacre, investigators found this hand-stenciled sign hanging on a fence: "CRIMINALS ARE MADE, NOT BORN." Kehoe may or may not have been born a criminal -- mental illness is not simple -- but I reject his excuse that he was "made" to be one, as though the methodical and brutal murder of those 44 innocent souls was somehow somebody else's fault instead of his own.
Evil does not exist in dynamite or knives or fire or firearms. Evil exists in hearts and minds.
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