Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on February 19, 2019. 

Here’s the thing: I never envisioned that students and teachers at a Kamloops school could be the target of a deadly plot. When the explanatory email came from the school district, I read it twice and shook my head. Students had a hard time processing all of it.

Who were those two youths who got so lost from their humanity to lean towards wanting to hurt and even kill people? Peace of mind can only be broken once; afterwards you’re jumpier than usual.

Then there was a stabbing in Rayleigh, a shooting in Brock, and a kidnapping too; all around here, all over a week. What is the world coming to?

And more was yet to come. On Thursday and then Friday, heartbreaking news came from Ontario. An 11-year-old girl was found dead in her father’s apartment and her father arrested after an Amber Alert was issued. Too late for the child, but the man (charged with first-degree murder in the meantime) was apprehended after tips from the public.

All of this is enough to make you lose faith in humanity. And yet, there was something even more disturbing: many people complained about being woken up by the Amber Alert.

OK, let me repeat that: people were bothered by the sudden imposition of this loud sound meant to get everyone’s attention because a child’s life was in danger. Nothing can top that in terms in insensitivity. The word insensitivity sounds almost lenient. That kind of behaviour (people called 911 to complain) is just blood-chilling lack of any shred of compassion. Immoral at best.

We may shudder at the thought of evilness living among us – we read about it in the news, but how would you qualify someone’s anger at the Amber Alert? If your child was in danger of possibly being killed, would you like an alert to be issued and people to be aware and helping? How could anyone be bothered?

Yes, I get it, being woken up by sudden loud noises is not great. You’re tired and lacking concentration the next day, you’re slower and functioning at a fraction of your capacity. But… this is not an every-night occurrence (thank God!) and if it were, would we not do our best to help save a child’s life?

The Amber Alert issued for Riya Rajkumar was anything but an opportunity to complain. It was a heartbreaking story unfolding. Someone’s child was at the hands of an unstable person and the least anyone in that area could do was to know what was happening and help the best they could. Unfortunately, it was too late for Riya. That alone should have stopped many from complaining and if they had already flooded the lines, they should issue an apology of sorts – overwhelmed by the reality of their own self-centredness standing against a parent’s worst nightmare.

I am not sure how big an echo this side story will have. News comes and go, but the horridness of this reality is haunting. Criminal minds are scary, but what can be said about people who do not wish to be troubled by urgency of helping to find a child, hopefully alive and unharmed.

If we cannot count on each other in a community or virtual community as it happens with social media, who can we count on? If one child is in danger of being harmed, is it not the basic of moral duties to step in to help? The answer in Riya’s case was no. The hollowness of that word could not be darker.

It has been said many times that people are the same no matter the age they live in. Plagued by the same ills and evils, filled by the same ambitions and desires, fueled by lofty sentiments and, hopefully, powered among others by a sense of helping and creating the ‘village’ where each of us and our children are safer and happier.

And yet… I am left with a sense of disbelief and anger over this. I know that for everyone who called to complain there are countless people who care (there are, right?) but the fact remains that disgruntled people flooded the lines, and some even shared tips on how to block such alerts.

Truly, words are not enough. Can this be an exercise in being reminded that one of the things that counts in this life is being there for each other? We simply cannot fail at this; if we do, all is lost.