So…a little over a year ago I began my current project assignment that has me trekking northward. The project has been pretty intense; however, on balance I have enjoyed my time in Marinette. This is a small town – I have come to appreciate the change of pace & have settled into a routine. In my year up here, there have been many joking conversations with my counterpart (a Marinette native) about “big city life in Chicago” vs. “small town life in Marinette.” When people would ask where my current assignment was, the name Marinette didn’t mean anything – so I would then elaborate with “it’s an hour north of Green Bay and on the border with the UP.”

Now, people know of Marinette because of Monday evening.

After a fairly typical start to the day and week, as I was wrapping up my day I heard a man in a nearby cube receive a call from his teenage daughter – as he quickly left the office he mentioned that the high school was on lockdown – there had been a shooting – not a lot was known. I did a quick search online & didn’t see any details. When I left the office & headed to the hotel to check in I followed my normal route – at the high school intersection, the dark sky was aglow with the blue and red lights of emergency vehicles. As I checked in at the hotel, a favorite front desk gal was on the phone with her daughter at the high school trying to gather more details.

Not a lot was known – a student had taken his classroom hostage.

Details and rumors began to trickle out – news media from Green Bay scrambled to get reporters up here. Regular programming was interrupted with breaking news updates. Social media lit up with the story – in addition to the rush of false statements and comments I saw some great journalism in less than 160 characters via Twitter – throughout the evening Marinette was a top 10 trending topic on Twitter. Sprinkled in were emails & text messages with colleagues.

Finally, the news that the students and teacher had been safely freed from the classroom. No comment on the student that had caused the situation – the look on the police chief’s face indicated the next update would not be good. With each subsequent news conference, the news about the student became more dire and now there is a family, a school, a community wondering why this boy felt this action was his only possible solution.

On Tuesday, the office conversations were filled with reactions to Monday evening. This is a small town – it seemed like almost everyone knew someone involved. More and more details about the events are being shared. The teacher is being hailed a hero – a high school social studies teacher that is well liked and makes an impact on her students. (Hearing how that teacher handled the situation, I am once again in awe of my little sister…a high school social studies teacher that is well liked and makes an impact on her students and has dealt with various student situations in her years in the classroom…)

Today, the school is reopened. The conversations in the office are mostly filled with other topics. My colleagues are ready for the glare of the national spotlight to leave their community. On Saturday, a new Navy ship is being launched from the plant next door – it sits in the river waiting to debut – that was to be the big story from the town this week.

And once again, I’m reminded that these types of tragedies can happen anywhere at any time. This week, I happened to be in Anywhere USA.

P.S. Amongst all the coverage this week, my favorite piece is an editorial blog from the daily paper at Iowa State University – the editor is a Marinette grad who truly wrote from her heart.