You never know when something horrible or tragic might happen. What happened in Florida last week and at 17 other locales across the country including a school shooting in Italy, Texas last month, could literally happen anywhere at anytime these days.

You never know when something horrible or tragic might happen. What happened in Florida last week and at 17 other locales across the country including a school shooting in Italy, Texas last month, could literally happen anywhere at anytime these days. This fact is as tragic as the loss of life and the pain and grief families and communities are experiencing now.

From the tragedy in Columbine where 12 students and one teacher were murdered to the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last Tuesday, where 17 were murdered - it is literally happening everywhere. The Florida shooting is the seventh shooting this year that has injured or killed people at elementary, middle and high schools around the country.

That includes the shooting at Italy High School that wounded a 15-year-old girl just over three weeks ago.

The tragedy is that this is becoming the norm. And, over the years, we have had to learn to prepare.

As a reporter, I have covered law enforcement training events at schools - active shooter drills - that started almost immediately after Columbine. I witnessed the S.W.A.T. teams arriving on the campus at Brownwood High School, and enacting a rescue mission of the students and the apprehension of one or multiple shooters. It was indeed a calculated and planned military exercise, carried out by multiple agencies.

As a parent, I have actually experienced an event, that was bone chilling and terrifying and occurred on the campus of Woodland Heights Elementary School in Brownwood when my youngest daughter was in the third grade - in about 1999.

I had gone to school to have lunch with her. We were sitting in the cafeteria, enjoying our lunch, when the Principal Doris Parrish walked up to me with a concerned look on her face. She knew I was a reporter, and quietly spirited me to the side and said “I need your help.”

“We need to get all of the children to the back of the school, there is a man with a gun out front and we need to get them all out of harm’s way.”

I immediately got up and helped the other teachers and administrators calmly line up the children and walk them out the back entrance of the cafeteria which led to the back of the school. The school is surrounded on three sides by homes - the shooter, armed with a hunting rifle - was positioned at a home on the west side in front of the school - we moved everyone to the east side of the school.

Everyone who was there, including me, was now on lock down for the duration of the terrifying event. Parents, teachers and children were in the school on lock down.

Meanwhile, law enforcement was surrounding the school in an attempt to defuse the incident, which if I recall, involved a distraught, mentally ill man.

We had taken the children to areas of the school which were safe and did not have windows. We were sheltering in place for sure.

And this was before technology is what it is today - in fact, most people did not have cell phones. So I took on the task of relaying information to the newspaper and radio stations to get the word out to the public. The main thing was that law enforcement did not want parents to start coming to pick up their children in the middle of the incident. Fortunately, we were able to get the word out in time.

I was inside, so I knew the children were safe. But those parents who were told to wait to pick up their children - were most assuredly scared to death and frantic, much like the parents and loved ones at any of the recent incidents were.

Fortunately, law enforcement was able to negotiate with the shooter and he eventually surrendered. No one was hurt, but a volatile, incident like this could have easily gone the other way.

The point is, we all need to be vigilant, unfortunately now more than ever. As someone told me last week, the Internet has changed everything, and now, incidents that most thought only happened in big cities or anywhere else but here, can happen right in our own communities.

As we pray for the families and the loved ones of those who have lost and gave their lives we have to be reminded that in each case there were clues before the shootings occurred. Facebook posts, Internet ramblings and events in the case of the shooter in Florida, even a stint at a mental health facility.

All that said, it’s time we reached out to our lawmakers and ask them to help - we are at a crisis point - no matter what your political beliefs are - children and teachers are dying and that is absolutely not acceptable. We cannot afford to lose our future - our children.

Celinda Hawkins is the managing editor of the Runnels County Register. She can be reached by calling 432-349-2736 or via email at chawkins@gatehousemedia.com.