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PARAMORE: Auburn shooting a sad situation

Unless you’ve been living in a cave the last few days, you know three young people lost their lives Saturday night at an apartment complex during a party in the shadow of Auburn University’s normally-serene campus. There is one key to the above statement. The people who lost their lives were barely old enough to vote in some cases. The fact that a pair of them were football players is secondary to the case, but pertinent nevertheless. Why? Because the incident has turned into a national story. Sunday evening, it was either the lead or the second story mentioned on all three major networks which produce newscasts in the prime-time slot. Sadly, if this were  just a shooting that involved students who had no connections to the 2010 national championship team, it would likely be a national footnote. The life of Loachapoka resident Demario Pitts is not any less valuable, nor is that of John Robertson, who at press time for this column was still in critical condition at a Birmingham hospital. Three others, including current player Eric Mack, were hit by gunfire, but didn’t suffer life-threatening wounds. Ed Christian, a former offensive lineman on medical leave from the team, and ex-fullback Ladarious Phillips lost their lives. Christian was called a gentle “peace-maker” by his high school coach, while Phillips was due to arrive in tranquil Jacksonville in July, where he planned to finish his career under former Pat Dye assistant coach Jack Crowe. Late Sunday, Crowe said Phillips was supposed to be at Jax State in June, but chose to finish one more semester at Auburn. He never got the chance. Unfair as it may be, the tragedies now link Auburn to a degree with other campuses where horrific events have occurred. No, it wasn’t dozens of deaths like the Virginia Tech massacre, and the alleged shooter isn’t a student. But horrific is horrific, and Auburn’s name is linked with a life-altering incident for at least the immediate future. I spoke at length Monday with Dothan native and former Auburn quarterback and baseball star Gabe Gross about what transpired. “It’s just not the kind of thing that goes on at Auburn,” he said. “I live about five minutes from where it happened, and I’m sitting there watching Fox News Sunday morning when they came on with the story. It’s awful, and everyone is in shock here.” Reportedly, a fight started at a pool party over a woman all the involved parties apparently knew, then escalated from a bottle-throwing donnybrook into a full-fledged fight. One eye witness said everyone was simply standing around talking before “a massacre” took place. As Gross said, caution is a key. “You’ve got to look around, see who’s there, what’s happening,” he said. “But this is a small, rural school, not in a big city where you can control who comes and goes easier. People are always coming to visit, to stay with friends.” Auburn officials, including head coach Gene Chizik, athletic director Jay Jacobs and president Jay Gouge all expressed sorrow at the happenings and the school offered free counseling to anyone who felt they needed it. Just as Tiger faithful stepped up to the plate when lives were lost in Tuscaloosa due to the tornado last April, Alabama fans have expressed their condolences and support for the Auburn family in the last few days. And that is good, to be commended. What’s not are senseless crimes that cut short the lives of people whose journey was just beginning. And sorry just doesn’t seem to be enough right now. Divine intervention is what is needed most now. For the victims and their grieving families, may it have already arrived, and be very real. Phil Paramore’s column appears Tuesday in The Dothan Eagle. He can be heard weekday afternoons from noon until 2 on AM 560, 100.1 FM or at . He can be reached at the same website.

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