Our Greek-American community is living through one of its most historic moments, and perhaps its most detestable. A historic moment the whole country is talking about. And the whole world.
A Greek-American, a 17-year-old child, is the accused killer in the Santa Fe High School shooting, outside of Houston, TX, the fourth-worst on the list of school shootings in the United States.
On Friday morning, May 18, the news agencies and television stations interrupted their regular programming to deliver the grim news that yet another lethal attack against a school was in progress. The early reports focused generally on the dead and wounded. The entire Herald staff went, naturally, on alert.
So, we started processing the information as it arrived for our web site editions: the number of the dead children was rising constantly; distraught parents rushed to school to pick up their children. The photos showed scenes now familiar to us from previous school mass shootings: children embracing, mourning, praying, running for their lives. These pictures tend to become almost routine now, since these mass shootings occur so frequently. Also frequent are the promises that something will be done. Until the next attack.
Then, suddenly, a terrible piece of information was released that makes this murderous assault different. They are all terrible, shocking, incredible, but this one was even worse- if it were possible- . Because, as it turned out, the subject in custody for this mass carnage is Greek-American. And so Greek is his name – Dimitrios Pagourtzis – that it leaves no room for doubt. And he is the son of a Greek immigrant.
This is difficult, very difficult, to accept.. The questions are many, rushing like arrows one behind the other. How is it possible that he is Greek-American? How could he grow up in a Greek home and do what he did? What make him take his father’s weapons and commit this terrible crime? And how have his father, mother, and sister reacted? And what do they say to the parents of the children their son murdered?
Last, but not least, what impact does this have on the name of the Greek-American community? Does it not affect us, make us look somewhat bad in the eyes of general society? As if what we’ve been going through is not enough, now this? And how will this affect our image in Greece?
Of course, the act of one member of one family, or a minority or even a nation, cannot condemn an entire people. But does it not leave something of a burden on all of us, a shadow at our expense? Does it not become a matter of discussion?
In the ensuing days we will learn a great deal more about Dimitrios Pagourtzis. We need to. Maybe it will help us understand how a child of our community, our child, could reach such desperation and commit such an unspeakably awful crime.