Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane left me heartbroken

Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane left me heartbroken

At twenty-five minutes to ten on a crisp, rainy March morning in Scotland, the usual birdsong was replaced by wailing sirens. Tearing through the small sleepy town of Dunblane, on a call to the primary school, they didn’t realize they were already far too late.

This is the opening scene of Netflix’s new short documentary, Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane.

The next scene… a parallel. Thirteen years later in Newtown, Connecticut.

Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane recounts the tales of two small, previously unheard of, towns on opposite sides of the Atlantic and the connection forged between two priests in the wake of a chilling tragedy.

Monsignor Bob Weiss receives a letter, mere days after the disaster at Sandy Hook, from a fellow priest in Dunblane. Monsignor Basil O’Sullivan sees himself only thirteen years ago, and his heart goes out to his fellow priest. He’s been through this. He understands. He knows the struggles that they are facing and will continue to face, Father Bob Weiss and his parishioners.

Mere six-and-a-half minutes into their story, tears fill my eyes and threaten to spill out. I remember Sandy Hook. I had forgotten, but now I remember.

Those in Dunblane and Sandy Hook will never forget.

For the next fifteen-and-a-half minutes, the tears continue. In only twenty-two minutes, Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane has taken me back to that tragedy and the 1,600 mass shootings in America since then. It reminded me of the pain. It riled me up over the lack of gun control we have here in America. It puzzled me with how the United Kingdom could make a change so quickly, and yet all this time, all these shootings later, we have done next to nothing. It did everything a documentary is supposed to do and then some.

The story is a horrific one; however, the bond of Father Bob Weiss and Father Basil O’Sullivan lets a ray of light shine through. In the wake of two great tragedies, these men allow us a look at their personal demons, an act of monumental vulnerability. The story details the pain that encapsulated their lives and even today still follows them. Monsignor Bob checked himself into a psychiatric ward for a month. Father Basil can still hear the sound of glass crunching under his feet as he entered the school that morning.

Losing so many lives, so many young lives, is an unparalleled disaster. But those two fateful days didn’t just end thirty-six lives; it forever altered the lives of more people than we can count.

A beautifully powerful depiction of destruction, Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane intertwines many quotes from the men’s letters into the story, ending on one in particular.

“And we remember all of you here, in the Church of the Holy Family, Dunblane, Scotland.
In Domino, Basil O’Sullivan.”