Could Someone Like Beachwood's Coach Have Helped Chardon Shooter?
Beachwood's longtime "Coach I," whose grandson was a victim of the Chardon shooter, is a mentor to so many. Could a role model like him have helped TJ Lane?
I had not thought about Dom Iammarino, my Beachwood High School General Business teacher, in a long time.
I was not the kind of student who kept in touch. I barely kept in touch when I was actually attending Beachwood 30 years ago. I moved away. I have probably written 10,000 checks since Mr. Iammarino - "Coach I" to pretty much everyone at the school, especially his wrestling team - taught us how to fill out the "pay to the order to" section.
Come to think of it, I should have thought of Coach I every time I paid a bill.
I have been thinking about Coach I since Monday, when I found out his 16-year-old grandson was the first to die in the shooting at Chardon High School.
A school shooting is an unspeakable tragedy, anytime and anywhere. Young Danny Parmertor was doing pretty much what my own teenage son does each school day. Hanging around a table with his friends. Maybe eating. Maybe talking about guitars or Xbox or complaining about meddling parents.
Then an alienated kid with a gun came in. Now three boys are dead.
As I said, unspeakable. How does that happen?
Sadly, it can happen anywhere, and we are likely to find out as the story unfolds how TJ Lane, the shooter, got his hands on a gun and how he slipped through the counseling cracks.
If it can happen in Chardon, it can happen anywhere. In fact, it often does. Columbine High School was a nice place. So is Chardon.
Chardon is the kind of rural-suburban place where one goes antiquing. Maybe apple picking. That kind of place. A "let's go for a ride in the country and see the fall leaves" kind of place.
As long as kids can get their hands on guns, it is a "school shooting can happen here" kind of place. As is my neighborhood. And yours.
Ohio laws say a person must be 21, pass a national background check and fill out a firearms transaction record to purchase a gun. They don't need a state permit, firearm registration or owner's license.
Also, a gun buyer can avoid the background check by purchasing at a private sale. And last summer, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a "guns-in-bars law," making it legal to carry concealed firearms into bars, restaurants, malls and other public places.
You can't smoke in any of those places, but you can pack heat. Nice. I now live in Virginia, where the same applies. And this week, the state legislature revoked a 19-year-old ban that limited gun purchases to one a month. You now can buy a bag 'o guns in Virginia. Sweet.
We'll find out more about the shooter's mental state in the days to come, but the sickest irony about this story is someone could have helped him. Maybe someone like...Danny Permertor's grandfather.
You know that teacher. The one everyone liked. The kind of teacher who put in 40 years in education in order to guide young minds and mold young athletes. The coach who, even in his 70s, still helped out with the middle school team just for fun.
He was the one kids listened to. I am sure in 40 years of coaching more than a few boys came to the program - which had a run of a dozen state champions in the 1970s and 80s - fidgety, belligerent or lazy.
Even in Beachwood, a community of cozy affluence, there were probably some with troubled home lives. That can happen anywhere too. I am certain they looked to the coach for guidance and support.
Wrestling, like many sports, is a road to discipline. Want to succeed? You have to listen. You have to sweat buckets and do countless drills in a padded room. You have to think on your feet and plan your next move. You have to maintain a GPA that will let you stay on the team. Your arm might be twisted within a few inches of actually snapping off (or so it seems); you cannot let on that it hurts till the match is over.
You have to cut weight. You try losing nine pounds by Friday. It's possible, if you are committed.
My brother was one of Coach I's wrestlers three decades ago. He says he learned everything - or at least the life lessons one needs to get to where they need to go - from wrestling.
My brother started high school as one of the fidgety ones and ended as a runner up in the state tournament. Coach I's influence figuratively screwed his head on right, and he is quite successful today. He still lives in town, where the old wrestlers are a wide network. They would not let someone slip through the cracks, even at age 50.
I wish TJ Lane had had a Coach I in his life. It's beyond tragic that the coach won't have Danny in his.
I am going to go write a check to the Chardon Healing Fund. Click here if you want to do the same. Sign it just the way the coach taught us: with the number close to the end of the box, so no one commits forgery.
Then email the Ohio governor. Sign it just the way I tell you: Governor Kasich - Strengthen gun laws now. Peoples lives are depending on it.
Karen Goldberg Goff is a 1982 Beachwood graduate and the editor of Reston (VA) Patch.