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Stabbing rampage — why?

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Alex Hribal, the suspect in the multiple stabbings at the Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pa., is escorted by police to a district magistrate to be arraigned on Wednesday, in Export, Pa.

KEITH SRAKOCIC / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Alex Hribal, the suspect in the multiple stabbings at the Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pa., is escorted by police to a district magistrate to be arraigned on Wednesday, in Export, Pa.

In the midst of shock and sorrow, there is bewilderment. The mass attack Wednesday morning at Franklin Regional High School near Pittsburgh — with 19 students and a security guard stabbed or slashed, including at least one critically — leaves a host of unanswered questions. While the shrieks and sobs still echo, all the questions boil down to one: Why?

What possessed the suspect, Alex Hribal, 16, to attack students before classes had begun? Why did he choose to use two eight-inch kitchen knives? Why did this occur at Franklin Regional, which until Wednesday seemed as safe a school as any? More profound still, what explains the mass violence that stalks America’s schools, this example different only in its horrific details?

Some of the answers should come over the next few days and they will provide a guide to answering perhaps the ultimate question: Can such a terrible event be avoided or are all children in America involved in a deadly game of chance, just potential random victims in a violent society? Murrysville on Wednesday, God knows where in the months ahead.

Parents and the wider society naturally want to have their fears alleviated, and into the vacuum left by the absence of facts will come theories, often informed by political thoughts not yet imbued with wisdom. Someone will say: See, they want to ban guns but now they will have to ban knives. And someone else will say, thank God this kid didn’t have guns, 20 people might be dead. And so it will go, on and on.

But now is not the time. Now we must praise the assistant principal, Sam King, who tackled the suspect, and the student, Ian Griffith, a senior who helped him. We must applaud Gracey Evans, a junior, who applied pressure to contain a friend’s wound, and Nathan Scimio, a sophomore, who pulled the fire alarm when chaos was breaking loose. More actions by the staff and students, not to mention emergency responders and medical personnel, will come to light, showing courage and duty under pressure.

A community was attacked and a community rallied to the challenge, and that is cause for hope at the end of an evil day. It is a time for prayers — prayers for the wounded and prayers for greater understanding.

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