In the wake of the mass murder of seventeen souls at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida nearly two weeks ago, there has been much discussion about Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz. What led the 19-year-old to intentionally plan a mass shooting and kill and destroy so many lives? Immediately, the media began digging into his past.
Dozens of calls to police about his behavior. A system that consistently failed to get him the mental health and behavioral therapy he clearly needed. Recently orphaned, his dad died in 2007 but his mother just within the past year or so. CNN reports that since 2008, police received over 45 calls about either Cruz or his brother. They started when Cruz was just nine years old, and 39 of them came from Cruz’s own house. CNN says the descriptions of the calls “include mentions of a ‘mentally ill person,’ ‘child/elderly abuse,’ ‘domestic disturbance,’ ‘missing person,’ and more.”
But there’s something else they keep saying about Nikolas Cruz, and it’s true.
Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter, was adopted at birth.
I have heard this fact repeated over and over and over, from the first evening after the shooting. Adopted. Adopted Adopted. They mention that before they mention that he was recently orphaned. The truth is, this very troubled child has, in 19 years, lost two sets of parents.
But I wonder, what must adopted children think when they hear that fact leading off the list of things we know about a mass murderer? My nephew, two years old, is adopted. Will he hear this terrible story one day, and think, “Wait…I’m adopted…” I have wondered this more than once since that terrible day in Florida two weeks ago.
And then yesterday, I saw this article. First, an adoptive mama shared it on Facebook and second, a co-worker of mine, an adoptive dad, sent it to me. Written on the adoption blog No Hands But Ours by adoptive mom Kelly, it is a letter to her adopted daughter about all the talk surrounding the Parkland shooter and his origins. As only a loving mother could, Kelly tells her daughter what she needs to know about the situation in an age-appropriate way, but she also tells ALL of us adults who are wondering, thinking, speculating about Nikolas Cruz. In a nutshell, she says, Don’t believe the lie that being adopted caused Nikolas Cruz to become the Parkland shooter.
And the truth is, we ALL need to take Kelly’s words into account. Perhaps it’s because they are written for a child, they are able to cut through the speculation and the conspiracy and break it down. She says:
Many of the stories have included the word adopted because Nikolas Cruz was adopted when he was a little boy.
I don’t know Nikolas’s real story. All I know are pieces of his story that I’ve heard on the news. Those pieces have told me enough to know that his story had a lot of hard things in it, a lot of very big hurts. And I’m not sure, but it seems that the grownups around him may not have done enough to help him handle those big hurts. I’m sad for him that that was the case.
For whatever reason, he didn’t get what he needed so that he could be safe and make good choices. And, I’m so sad that the series of bad choices he made have hurt so many people in such big, big ways. Those 17 people who died on February 14th each had a story too. They had mommies and daddies and brothers and sisters and friends.
But – pay attention to this, my sweet child — 17 people didn’t die that day because Nikolas was adopted.
Being adopted didn’t make him bad.
There’s really not much else to say. Yes, all adoptions DO start with a loss, but please, my friends, don’t let Nikolas Cruz’s actions that tragic day put a stigma on adopted people. If you are the parent of an adopted child who is old enough to have heard some of the media reports on Cruz, please use this opportunity to talk with them about how although adoption was a part of Cruz’s story, it was not the thing that “made him bad.” As an advocate for adoption and the adopted, please don’t allow that lie to be believed by your family and friends.
As Kelly says in her letter to her daughter,
Our histories matter. Our real stories do play a part in who we become. Adoption was part of his story. But, there were lots of other parts of his story. Some parts people know now; some parts they may find out soon and maybe we’ll hear as he goes to court and a judge decides what to do; some parts people will never know. But, don’t make the mistake of hearing him described as adopted and think that is what makes sense of this really bad thing.
Our histories MATTER…but they DON’T determine our present choices. Adoption is a beautiful gift to so many…let’s not spread the opposite message.
Read Kelly’s entire letter to her daughter here at No Hands But Our Own.