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Thursday, March 30, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Guest columnist

Shooting survivor's mother shares gratitude — and anger

Special to The Times

My son survived the carnage of Capitol Hill on March 25, 2006, by the skin of his teeth. The first moment of saving grace came from his girlfriend, whom I will be indebted to for the rest of my life, whether they stay together or not. The next moment came from Officer Steve Leonard, who arrived in time to distract the killer from breaking into the bathroom where my son and his girlfriend were hiding. Again, one whom I will be extremely grateful to forever.

The first thing I find myself having trouble getting past is how very close I came to losing my son. I'm not sure I'll ever get over that. I know it can happen anywhere and anytime, and yet logic just doesn't seem to take the leading stance in this instance. Emotion is barreling to the forefront with speed and accuracy.

Then, I find my overwhelming concern for those who did lose their sons, daughters, boyfriends, girlfriends, sisters, brothers. My grief, and guilt, well up alongside my previous emotion. These are emotions I'm not sure will ever go away.

Thankfulness comes in next. Thankfulness to God for saving my son for the next moment, at least. Thankfulness to everyone whose actions came between him and death. Thankfulness to him for using his head and hiding.

The reason I'm writing this, though, is not to let people know about these three emotions, because everyone in the world can understand, if not relate to, my feeling them. Today, I want the world to know that I'm angry.

I'm not angry at the things everyone is talking about, though. I'm not angry at the guns; the guns did not shoot at my son and kill his friends. I'm not angry at the after-hours parties, because billions of people of all ages have survived them. I'm not angry at the raves, drugs, alcohol, teenage rebellion, knives, bats, cars, etc., etc., etc.

I'm angry with Kyle Huff. Kyle Huff decided he wanted to end my son's life. Kyle Huff decided to kill all of those kids. Not his arsenal, not his family, not alcohol, not drugs. Not anything or anyone except Kyle Huff. I'm angry with everyone who is trying to make themselves feel better about this by blaming anything or anyone except the person responsible.

When are we as human beings going to stop making excuses for our behavior and the behavior of others? Yes, I agree, there are always reasons. We are human after all and make mistakes and wrong decisions, but we make them.

I had a rough childhood. Both adults and other children abused me physically, mentally and sexually in my childhood, but I have never allowed myself to blame anyone or anything for my actions.

Guns do not whisper (please let me shoot that guy!). Alcohol doesn't jump into our hands in mass quantities. Drugs do not make, sell or buy themselves for or to you. Party invitations do not say, "Come on over and hurt a few people." These are just a few of the things I hear people blaming for this catastrophe, along with many other "excuses" for other catastrophes.

Wake up, America! Kyle Huff killed these kids and my prayers include his family and friends because I know everyone is going to have a heyday placing blame on them, too! You have my heartfelt word that I most certainly am not!

One more thing: In the past few days, I and many others involved have had so very few people walk up to us with concern, love and helpfulness.

Why would you ask within range of a father whose child was shot, "What would possess a parent to allow their 14-year-old daughter to be at that party?"

Why would you say to a mother, whose child had a gun pointed at him and who saw his girlfriend killed, words to the effect: "How could you let your son go to those nasty raves?"

Why would you walk up to a sister whose brother hid in the basement listening to someone shoot his friends, wondering if he was next, and then proceed to give her your opinion on gun control?

Are these really the things you think we want to hear? Have we become so involved with our own morals and political beliefs that we need to press them on people who really just need a hug? Have we become so numb to violence that we can't focus on the pain the families and surviving victims are feeling? Have we forgotten how much trouble we were to our own parents when we were 14 going on 21?

Too many people have made comments much like those I've mentioned; too few just walk up and give us a hug. We need hugs. We need to cry. We're not doing OK.

We could use someone to listen, care and pray with us, to help figure out how to get our children the best counseling when we can barely afford to feed ourselves or pay the bills. We want someone to tell us how we're going to sleep tonight, knowing our children and friends are not around for us to tell them we love them.

We need you to think before you speak.

Danette M. Will of Redmond is the mother of Garry Will, 20, who with his girlfriend hid in a bathtub during Kyle Huff's rampage at a Capitol Hill home early Saturday morning.

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