HOW ONE HEARTBEAT IN CHARDON INSPIRED THIS MISSION
My hometown of Chardon, Ohio, experienced a moment of impact that inflicted deep and immeasurable pain on Monday morning, February 27, 2012, when Chardon High School became the target of a merciless school shooting. The horrific event turned our serene, small-town upside down and inside-out. Three young children lost their lives, and another boy suffered permanent paralysis. As a mom of three, I simply can’t fathom the pain.
These are just the physical losses and scars. It’s impossible to quantify the emotional wounds of grieving families, first-responders, teachers and staff, young and impressionable minds, and an entire community at large. The trauma remains deep within the heart of each person affected.
My three kids were students at Chardon High at the time, and words will never capture the emotional horror of that day. My husband and I happened to be at an intersection catty-corner to the school minutes after the first shots were fired. An unmarked police car raced in front of us and barricaded us in, leaving us to sit and watch the unthinkable unfold before our eyes.
The panic and helplessness of knowing our two sons were in a building with an active shooter defy comprehension. The only balm to our raging fear at that moment was we allowed our daughter to skip school that day for a basketball celebration. Had we not agreed the night before, she would have been five tables away from the deranged shooter. My heart still drops when I think about the what-ifs.
While my boys escaped with no physical harm and my daughter was spared the on-site experience, the emotional toll on all three was immense. As a family, we all continue to process and heal—this kind of trauma sticks to your insides. But you learn to live with the haunting memories, process the hard emotions, and feel grateful for your blessings. I can still look in my kid’s eyes, feel their warm embraces, hear their voices, speak to them, observe them grow up, celebrate their joys, and encourage them through their struggles.
Devastatingly, three sets of parents in Chardon and hundreds of other parents across the country in other communities don’t have these opportunities anymore. Violence stole their children way too young; a nightmare most of us only worry about became their reality. Every time I hear about another school shooting, my insides turn, and my heart collapses for all the people involved. More members are thrust into an unfathomable ‘me too’ club.
One of the ways I cope with these continued tragedies is to search for displays of kindness and compassion all around me. Doing so fills me up, restores my faith in humanity, and inspires me to offer more of the same to others. Compassion and kindness is what helped our hurting town wade through the aftermath and find the strength to carry on.
On the eve of the shooting, our town square became a beacon of hope as hundreds of families and kids from neighboring towns gathered around our cherished gazebo, offering strength and hope in togetherness. It was the kids, the courageous teenagers of Chardon High School, who took my breath away as they spoke, prayed, and sang words of peace and healing into our pain and desperation. Kids, who only hours before, were forced to cower in fear behind their desks as their school became a battleground, inspired the rest of us to band together in LOVE. One teen implored us to remember the shooter and pray for him, channeling God’s call for mercy.
Angels were in our midst that fallen night. LOVE was on full display in our darkest hour. Though it was hard to exhale, the compassion in the air did the breathing for us.
The following days and weeks revealed the true essence of our community. School officials and staff, community leaders, law enforcement officers, politicians, pastors, churches, friends, family, neighbors, and strangers rose above and became beacons of LOVE for all to see. “One Heartbeat” became our mantra. In their unique way, each person communicated in words or actions what it means to truly love your neighbor during a time of inexpressible grieving–every person embraced the Oneness of our existence. The endearing support and selfless acts of kindness our town experienced carried us all when we needed it most. I am forever grateful.
Our ‘One Heartbeat’ mantra is the inspiration behind the Peaceful Change Begins with Me mission. All those affected by violence, especially the grieving families, need our love and support. They need our positivity. They need us to be a peaceful presence. The fastest way we can be of service and affect change in their honor is by choosing to change ourselves. When we commit to becoming more loving, peaceful, and forgiving, especially to ourselves, we can offer these beautiful gifts to the world. As within, so without.
In the years since our shooting (and going back to 2006), I’ve been on a personal journey of healing and transformation which you can read more about here, obsessed with becoming a better version of myself to affect change for my family and the world. The transformation toolbox on the homepage is a culmination of these 17 years of personal development work and spiritual seeking. I’ve read every book and article, watched every documentary and talk, listened to every podcast, learned from every teacher, and used every tool and practice in the database. The transformation and healing I continue to experience are humbling, and I long for everyone to experience similar results. I hope and pray that having these resources available in one spot makes it easier for you to find your way.
LOVE is the ONLY answer to this continued violence. I pray we take personal responsibility and stop hating on each other, picking sides, judging each other, pointing fingers, and make a decision to restore our hearts. We need to be accountable for our actions, forgive like it’s our job, and let the LOVE we are made of lead us out of the pain and suffering. Our children deserve better …we all deserve better. We are One.
In loving memory of Danny Parmertor, Russel King, & Demetrius Hewlin. To all the families, peace be with you,
To Nick Walczak and family, peace be with you.
a bit more about Shelby…
“As we grow in our consciousness, there will be more compassion and more love, and then the barriers between people, between religions, between nations will begin to fall. Yes, we have to beat down the separateness.” – Ram Dass
Shelby is a Certified Emotional Intelligence Coach, Certified Meditation Teacher (CMT), author, freelance writer, speaker, and love advocate who is passionate about helping others ‘change the way they look at things so the things they look at change.’
After decades of personal healing and transformation, Shelby is passionate about paying forward all she’s learned by encouraging, inspiring, and loving on others, especially mommas.
Shelby lives in Ohio and after graduating with a BA in Accounting, she finally followed her passion to be a professional writer in 2015, at the your-never-too-old-to-follow-your-dreams-age of 45. She’s known for her deep love of others, vulnerable storytelling, sassy sense of humor, and tender listening.
Her book, How Are You Feeling, Momma? (You don’t need to say, “I’m fine.”), co-authored with her dear friend, Lisa Leshaw, recently won the 2020 Publisher’s Weekly Book Life Prize as the finalist in the Inspirational/Spiritual category.
Shelby has numerous stories featured in the national publication, Guideposts. She also has over 160 featured articles in online publications, including Her View From Home, Parenting Teens & Tweens, Scary Mommy, For Every Mom, Love What Matters, and Today. You can meditate with her on Insight Timer and find everything about her writing and work at shelbyspear.com, as well as info about the mission she and her daughter, Kahrin, co-created called, LOVESPEAKS. Shelby lives in Ohio with her husband, John, where they reminisce about their three 20-something children who no longer live in the nest and bask in glory over the birth of their first granddaughter.