Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

2001 Potential School Shooter Kills Family Instead


I was in the sixth grade in the year 2001 when rumors went through the school that there was going to be a shooting at the local high school. The high school was only ten minutes away, causing parents to pick up their children from the middle school. Classes were canceled so the students who had parents who worked, like me, stayed at the school to watch movies. No one was really worried and it was nice having classes canceled. Parents were the only ones who worried, probably because Columbine had only happened two years before. Nothing ever happened at the high school but the next day at school, rumors flooded the halls on how a group of high schoolers were going to pull the fire alarms and when the students exit the classrooms, they were going to shoot all the rednecks who teased them.

What I later found out is that a group of students at Lakewood Ranch High School made a suicide pact; they were going to sit around in a circle and use guns to shoot each other. They also talked about pulling the fire alarms and kill all the students (including the rednecks) who teased them in school. Though it was just talk, one student took it seriously – his name was Richard Henderson Jr. On February 28, 2001, he wrote a suicide note and a will. On March 2 (a Friday) he was caught at a McDonald’s with a gun. On March 5, he was going to bring the gun to school and kill students. If the police hadn’t caught him, would he have gone through with the plan? Would it have been another Columbine?

In 2005 I was now a junior at Lakewood Ranch High School. Over Thanksgiving weekend, the news broke about how a young man killed his family with a metal pipe. As new information emerged, I was shocked to find out that the same man who killed his family was the same man who threatened to shoot students four years earlier. Henderson, now a nineteen year-old, was playing videogames with his eleven year-old brother when he grabbed a metal pipe and hit his brother in the head three times, killing him. He then pushed his brother’s body out of the window; afterword, he left his bedroom and killed his grandmother, father, and mother with the metal pipe. That night, he slept in his parents’ bed and the next morning he wrote a note apologizing for murdering them and accepting his punishment. The next few days he stayed with friends and family members before a family member became worried and went to check on the family at their home. Inside the home she found four bodies covered in blood. Henderson was questioned and arrested for murder.

During the trial in 2007, Henderson was painted as a person born with problems. He had bad grades in elementary school and was placed in a dropout prevention program. In middle school, fellow classmates described him as weird. In high school he threatened to shoot students at his high school. He was twice involuntarily committed under the Baker Act. He threatened to stab his ex-wife with a knife and was late on paying child support for his six year-old daughter. It was though Henderson was just evil with the need to kill. The jurors did not buy his insanity plea and instead  found him guilty of murder; he received life in prison. In a world where mass shootings are beginning to be common, I wonder if Lakewood Ranch would have been another mass shooting if Henderson was not caught beforehand at McDonald’s. I wonder if there is anything society can do to save people like Henderson – people born wanting to harm others. Henderson was twice committed, and I assume received help, yet it did not seem to help him at all. Henderson planned to shoot students who teased him and when his plan failed, he woke up years later, killing his loving family instead.

Thanksgiving: A Holiday being Overshadowed by Greed


Black Friday shoppers at Walmart

Black Friday shoppers at Wal-Mart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1620, a group of people (known today as the Pilgrims) arrived in the New World in order to escape religious prosecution in England. Of the original 102 passengers, only half of them survived the winter. In spring, they came in contact with the Natives, who taught them how to grow food. In November, after the Pilgrims’ first successful corn harvest, they organized a celebratory feast and invited their Native American friends. This feast would last for three days, though the peace between the two groups would last for over fifty years. Though New England would celebrate Thanksgiving annually, it was President George Washington who proclaimed Thanksgiving to be celebrated across the country for the “Happy conclusion of the War of Independence.” Though John Adams and James Madison followed suit, it was Abraham Lincoln who made Thanksgiving a National Holiday that would occur on the final Thursday in November. In the middle of the Civil War, Lincoln asked that all Americans to ask God “to commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”

Today, families gather around the table to eat turkey and watch football before going off to work… that is, if one is in the retail business. On a day where one should be thankful for what he has, it has now become consumed with shoppers “wanting more,” forcing retail employees to cut spending time with the family short. Originally Black Friday meant stores opened earlier, but now stores are opening early on Thanksgiving. Wal-Mart is opening at 8pm while Target is opening at 9pm. There are even some stores, like Old Navy, that is opened all day Thanksgiving. Besides the hours, Black Friday has also brought out the worse of the human kind.  In 2008, a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death as shoppers knocked the doors from their hinges and stepped on him in their rush to the stacks of sales items. In 2011, a woman used pepper spray on fellow shoppers to get Xbox videogames.

Since the first Macy’s Parade in 1924, the day after Thanksgiving has kicked off holiday shopping season. The term “black” refers to stores’ accounting records when records were kept by hand – red ink indicated a loss while black ink indicated a profit. In the 1960’s, Philadelphia police in Philadelphia complained about the traffic, calling it “Black Friday.” Today, Black Friday has become a giant economy boost since the National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales will increase 4.1% this year to $586.1 billion, causing retailers to hire between 585,000 and 625,000 seasonal workers this holiday. In 2011, 226 million people went shopping, spending on average $400 each, and resulting in a total of $52 billion dollars being spent. Another (safer) option to Black Friday is Cyber Monday, the Monday after Black Friday where retailers offer more sales; in fact, more than 70% percent of Black Friday deals last year were also available online.

The retail employees have expressed anger at having to work on a holiday; some employees have threatened to not show up on Black Friday. Wal-Mart has filed a complaint with a federal agency accusing one of the largest unions in the country of unlawfully organizing picket lines and in-store “flash mobs.”  People have also expressed  displeasure at stores for forcing their employees to work on a holiday, but  ultimately it is the shoppers who decide – if no one was lining outside Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving night, then Wal-Mart would not be open on Thanksgiving. Those customers in line must ask themselves, years from now, will they remember the Thanksgiving spent with family or the price they saved on a new television.