Commentary

Chad McDonald | 16 Seconds: A Letter to Saugus High

On Thursday Nov. 14, 2019, the lives of all Saugus High School Centurions, alumni and present, were changed forever.

A young man among you committed a horrendous act that nobody should have to witness. 

For 16 seconds, this young man murdered, wounded, and then committed suicide, though he would not die until the next day.

Sixteen seconds. Dreams and families shattered. Friends lost from this world. Minds shaken. A whole community changed in an instant.

In 16 seconds, the lives of all of us were changed. For reasons unknown to any but our Creator, this young man committed the unthinkable. 

All of us have become his victims in one way or another. 

All of us are asking the question, “What happens now?” 

This is a legitimate question to ask. We are angry, shocked, depressed, fearful, mournful and confused. 

We want answers. We may want vengeance. 

We may want to go back in time to those minutes before this event when innocence and security ruled our lives. 

I graduated Saugus High School in 1990, thirty graduating classes ago. Like you, we have lost our classmates to tragedy, to illness, and to demons that infect our minds. 

Yet, we have lived our lives, often in loving memory, and sometimes with the very same emotions that you may be experiencing now. 

Now you must decide how you will live the rest of your lives. 

Here is my advice to you as one who has endured similar tragedy in my personal life.

Forgive him. Because that will be the most difficult thing for you to do in your young lives. 

Only with forgiveness will you be able to move forward, to endure then to overcome the grief and the anger, the fear and the confusion. 

Forgiveness turns judgment over to those who have the capacity and wisdom to be judges of this event. Forgiveness frees your spirit to move forward.

Remember them. Because you will not be able to forget. 

Slowly the memory may fade, but you will never forget the details. Remember them; do not obsess, do not let those 16 seconds define your lives. Let them be the moment your life changed for the better.

Become young men and women of virtue. With forgiveness can come compassion. With remembrance, can come strength and purpose. 

Stand for doing the right thing at all times. It is called integrity. Be humble, be merciful, be compassionate, be thoughtful, be courteous, and be divine. 

Live your life because you choose to live it, not because somebody decided how you should live but because you alone have the capacity to decide how to live your lives.

Serve others, even strangers, and especially the weak and those with all manner of infirmities, be they physical, emotional, or spiritual. 

Treat all people with dignity and understanding no matter what their station in life may be.

While those of us who are older may sometimes see this advice as trite and old-fashioned, it has worked for all generations. Truth may fade from memory, but it will never change.

As the weeks and months go by, you will discover the power to endure, to remember, and to grow.

The Saugus High School Class of 1990 has 9-11-2001 forever etched in our memories. Your day is 11-14-2019. As we have endured, remembered, and serve our country and our families, you too will have the same powers. 

Let those 16 seconds be the moment that you decide to become a better person. 

Chad McDonald is a 1990 graduate of Saugus High School.

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