As I left work today, my Twitter feed caught fire with news of Marysville-Pilchuck High School being evacuated due to a bomb threat [“Marysville-Pilchuck High School evacuated after bomb threat,” Local News, Jan. 14]. Not even 90 days from the date that these kids experienced an unimaginable trauma, something like this may as well have rolled the clock right back to Oct. 24. Once the local media joined the fray, tweets like “why won’t they just leave us alone” and “why don’t they understand” began. Having spent some time with these kids (as I have after nearly every incident like this across the country), this is hardly the first time this has come up.
That simple reality seemingly escaped the Seattle local TV affiliates who once again flooded the high school with cameras. At least one of them, whose executive producer trumpeted it on Twitter, made the inexcusable decision to fly a helicopter above the school. The fact that no one seemed to take a deep breath and think through what this was like for teenagers who have already been through too much is deeply concerning, but not surprising. At schools that have had incidents of mass violence, this unfortunately happens over things as insignificant as the first day of school.
I understand that a bomb threat at a school, much less this school, needs to be reported. I do not think, however, that the need to inform the public justifies further frightening these kids by flooding the area with live trucks and flying helicopters over the location where frightened children are being reunited with their families. It’s great that the media constantly professes to care about kids like these, but that is certainly not the message that gets translated to the kids when the media oversteps like this. All that’s needed here is a deep breath and some basic empathy for what these kids have gone through and are going through.
What happened today was objectively exploitative. My friends in the media owe these kids an apology, but I’m certainly not holding my breath and I doubt they are either. I hope to be proven wrong.
Montel Williams, a 22-year veteran of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy and a graduate of the Naval Academy, had one of the longest running shows in daytime television history.