Pa. school stabbing incident sobering

Alex Hribal etched another entry into this country’s chronicle of school violence on Wednesday.

For Pennsylvania, but no doubt far beyond, his name will be remembered in much the same way as the names Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two Littleton, Colo., students who carried out the killing spree at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.

The reason Hribal’s name won’t maintain the same level of notoriety as the names of the Colorado shooters is that Hribal’s stabbing attack at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, near Pittsburgh, hasn’t claimed any lives – at least, not so far.

By the time Columbine’s terror ended with the killers’ own suicides, 12 students and a teacher were dead, and 23 students were wounded.

But minus deaths, the scene on Wednesday was reminiscent of the picture that authorities found on that April day in Colorado when they arrived to confront the situation.

The May 3, 1999, issue of Newsweek magazine began its account of the Columbine massacre with the quote “There was blood everywhere.”

After Wednesday’s incident, a Franklin Regional student said he had arrived at school to find “blood all over the floor” and smeared on the wall near the school’s entrance.

And, as at Columbine, that trail of blood continued.

In response to what happened at Franklin Regional, people throughout Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation are asking themselves – again – what might have prompted the incident and how it might have been prevented. Perhaps a possible reason will emerge after authorities have finished analyzing information in Hribal’s computer.

As with the Colorado shooters, authorities are once again faced with piecing together a puzzle – and they might never be sure they’ve assembled all of the troubling pieces.

The product of Wednesday is that schools, which have focused their attention primarily on preventing shootings, are faced with the need to more aggressively address other possible aspects of danger – although Wednesday’s wasn’t the first knife attack at a school. In fact, there have been two over the past year in Texas.

It’s again a sobering thought for parents that when they send their sons and daughters to school each day, they can’t guarantee that they’ll be safe.

Franklin Regional isn’t an inner-city school, such as some in major metropolitan areas that routinely deal with more violent cultures. It can be likened to some in Blair and surrounding counties, where such occurrences seem beyond possibility.

Just like most families in these environs, Hribal’s family is a good family out of which something so awful seems incomprehensible.

On ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday, Hribal’s defense attorney described Hribal as remorseful but didn’t appear to appreciate the gravity of his actions.

In addition to indicating possible undetected mental health issues, Wednesday’s incident might expose a breakdown in communication between Hribal and his parents – something all parents should seek to avoid.

Hribal’s attack is forcing Franklin Regional to take a new, deeper look at itself, but that need extends well beyond.

Wednesday provided haunting questions for all of us.