The Day After

I walked onto the Elsinore High School campus last Friday not expecting anything out of the ordinary. Like everyone else, my thoughts were on the madness that had possessed Los Angeles over the previous two days, and I knew that there had been some outbreaks of violence in Perris on Thursday.

But it never occurred to me that someone might attack Elsinore High School.

MY school.

But attack it they did. A few people — we’re all guessing it was not just one — tried to burn down the school library, a classroom, and a tree, with Molotov cocktails. Fortunately, whoever these people were probably were not very bright, as they couldn’t seem to burn anything down. You’d think making a Molotov cocktail would be a relatively simple thing to do, that any run-of-the-mill delinquent could do it. These apparently were not your typical delinquents, however. These were delinquent delinquents.

Rumors were flying around the school like the crows in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Students had heard that the library was burned down, that Perris High School had burned down, that principal Ed Brand had been pulled from his car, streets of L.A.-style, and beaten up, among other things. For the most part, students didn’t take this kind of stuff too seriously.

Many of their parents did, though, and kept their kids home from school on Friday. Several of my classes were noticeably empty. Lisa Bramlett, who has a daughter in the ninth grade, said, “I realize that they feel they have adequate supervision, but they don’t. They’ve had drive-by shootings, they’ve had shootings in the quad. I just didn’t want to risk it.”

ASB President Mike Pust, a senior, tends to disagree. “I think they [the parents who kept their kids home] were over-reacting a little bit,” he said, adding that “they were just adding to the paranoia.”

Mike added that he felt what had happened “was a fluke.”

Students generally seemed to agree with Mike — that what happened was a fluke. A ridiculous fluke, at that.

“I think it’s sheer ignorance,” said Andrae Bibbs, a junior, referring to the attack on EHS. “It just saddens me.”

As an African-American, Andrae was affected a bit personally by the violence in L.A. and the Rodney King case, but he said no one treated him any differently during those few days. His younger brother, a sixth grader at Butterfield Elementary, however, had a few problems. Andrae said the problems existed beforehand, but were intensified by the chaos in Los Angeles — this was people’s excuse to carry out their racist ideas.

Stan Crippen, who teaches psychology and U.S. History and who has a Master’s Degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy, said he discussed everything quite extensively in his classes. Most of his students, he said, felt that what happened at EHS “was kind of stupid.”

“I don’t think they feel threatened,” Crippen said. “The attitude on campus was calm.”

As Mike Pust put it, “I don’t think we have enough [campus] security for a full-scale riot, but I don’t think anybody was planning on having one.”

And that was the prevailing opinion, as far as I could tell, among the citizens of Elsinore High School after their school had been attacked — that it was a fluke, that it probably wouldn’t happen again, and that even if it did, life would go on.

Just like it always does.

This ran under the label "COMMENTARY." It was not a column (I had a regular column in that same issue), but it was not a news story, either, because I injected my personal feelings into it. (I wrote a news story about this incident, too, though.)

I'm including this article here on the website mainly out of historical interest, a little slice of life from May 1992.

Those of us who lived in Southern California at the time of the Rodney King verdict and the ensuing madness remember how dramatic and tense it was. It's hard to believe that it really happened, and that an entire city went crazy for two days.

It was even harder to believe that some of that craziness made its way to Lake Elsinore, 70 miles southeast of L.A. It was apparent that this was really "copycat" violence, with no real motivation behind it, but it was a little alarming nonetheless.