The heartbreak of Chardon, by Debra Dudinsky

We here at love including the voices of others—especially when they carry such weight and impact as today’s guest.

Debra Dudinsky is a native of Chardon, Ohio, the scene of the tragic school shooting of February 27. Here, she talks about the experience, and what her hometown means to her.

One heartbeat•One town•One love

It’s a phrase I have been hearing since Monday. Not from the media or the newspapers. From the breaking hearts of the students of Chardon High School. Past and present. I have been trying to put this into words since Monday. Most of my closest friends will tell you I still can’t talk about it without breaking down and just going quiet. It’s been a whirlwind. It’s almost impossible to fathom. Lots of words have come to mind lately. Tragedy. Senselessness. Fear. Grief. But one that sticks with me the most came from my younger sister—Surreal.


To understand that I think you have to understand what was. What is. And what what will be.

What was.

What kind of town was Chardon? It was the kind of town that fought Wal-mart for almost 10 years and other big businesses because they loved their homespun atmosphere. It’s a town that has a courthouse at the center of almost a quaint Victorian village with park benches upon bricks. It’s the kind of town where Friday nights are spent at Chardon Memorial Football Field.

It’s the kind of town where you don’t go anywhere unrecognized. People you dated a million years ago or lived by or worked with. It was a school district always recognized for Academic Excellence. It was a school system both my kids attended from K through 12th grade.

It was summers at the Chardon Pool with the sounds of the Chardon marching band practicing in the background. It was Maple Festivals and snowfalls of two feet. It was local theatre, riding bikes and walking dogs around the square.It was community spirit in the Midwest. It was a lifetime. It’s what was.

What it is.

Facebooks and cell phones and a frenzy. I first heard about the shootings right after they happened Monday morning, Feb. 27. The students were told not to use their phones or text. But they were kids and parents were texting them to see if they were alive. I heard the names of all that had been shot by 9 am. I had heard first and second and third deaths probably 12-15 hours before the news. It was mind-numbing. And even then you could almost feel and invisible bond taking shape.

Alumni far and near wanting to be close. Teachers, parents waiting together as the news unraveled in real time. What was once the teaching parking lot at the Chardon Middle School was now nothing but cameras and TVs. Everywhere. Intrusion. Violation. And more tears.

And while this invisible bond was taking shape, there was doing. Kids were making car decals (my daughter’s class of 2007), buttons, bracelets, ribbons. Anything they could wrap themselves around to help grieve and be a part and help the families. Something to help take away the helplessness and fear.

There has been so much love from home and so much shown from the world outside. All the neighboring schools sent pictures. Schools we’ve faced in competitions hundreds of times were sending pictures with the words “One Heart.” Donations. Candles. Tears. Support. From businesses. Wal-mart that day in Chardon opened their doors to the police, the FBI, the Board of Education. Restaurants, Families dropping off and donation ribbon, Cards. Gifts of money from all over the country to help pay for funeral expenses.

What will be.

Chardon will never be the same.

The tears are still flowing. But we are strong. And we have pulled together. And peace and sleep will come.

Something was taken from us and our once quiet town is now a center of newshounds, cameras. Pictures of kids grieving. Part of me hates this Chardon. But the rest of me believes in the greater good. That people are seeing us cry and grieve. And pulling together and being strong and taking that invisible bond and wrapping it around the world.

I am gonna end this with a video I hope you take the time to watch.

And because after all …

we are all …

One heartbeat•One town•One love.