Dillon Cliebold, one of the two students who massacred so many people in the Columbine High School shootings came from my home town. He moved from here, to Columbine, just a few short years before the killings. I believe this town, and the attitudes of the board members, township officials, local authorities, and many “adult” citizens all worked together to create the monster that left Oscoda Michigan.
Please remember, the monster, the murderer, had a name and a face. Please remember that not too long before he killed so many people, he was just a child, trying to grow up. One reaching out for help, and not finding any.
Dillon Cliebold, like all sons, came into this world with a thing called HOPE. All of his life experiences contributed to the “end of hope”, which eventually led to acting out in such rage and hate, that he targeted not only himself, but everyone around him, when he reached that end.
“Oscoda Michigan is number one.” That’s what town officials will tell you.
They will tell you that it’s a great place to tour, and this summer, as with the past two summers, they will invite you to attend the “Red, White, and Blue Collar Festival” to be held down by the waterfront. They want you to move here, they say it’s a great place to live and work.
Oscoda Michigan is indeed number one: It is the number one city in Michigan for unemployment. Considering that Michigan is the number one state in the country for unemployment, that really makes us number one.
Having run the Hope St. Johns Parish Outreach Center (otherwise known as “the youth center” here) I can give you some first hand information about this area, and how it treats its youth.
First off it should be known that 80 percent of our families with children make less that $20,000 a year. This information came from the Michigan state web-site, and details the number of children on food stamps, and those who receive free school lunches as well. Over 90 percent of children receive school lunches free, because their families meet the income guidelines.
Oscoda Michigan, is a ‘senior’ community. 10 percent of the citizens in Oscoda Michigan make over $40,000 dollars a year. These are the wealthy business owners. These are the people who want the youth to work for them for minimum wage (or less) and want to keep all competition out of the area. They are members of the “Downtown Business Association.” an association which continually throws it’s money into looking after their own interests, and destroying what’s left of an already dead community. They work tirelessly to keep all other businesses out of this community, lest they provide “competition” for their little share of the business in this area. They also manage to run and get elected for office year after year after year. Once, a group of average citizens managed to get a recall of the business leaders. Next thing you know all of their friends took over, and did the same thing.
The youth center received so little support from the adults in this community.
The police were called almost every night, because of a kid “skateboarding in the parking lot” someone even complained that there were “black people in black jackets” at the building, and they didn’t want “those kind of people” at a youth center. When anyone suggests doing something for the youth in this town, it is immediately shut down, with comments like “They have plenty to do. We have the beach and river and the woods.”
Oscoda is number one for substance abuse. Oscoda has the highest rate of drug and alcohol abuse in the state. Not Detroit, Not Lansing, Not any of the major cities, in Michigan, but a small town, where people think they can “get away from all of the bad stuff that is happening in the cities.” The kids use the woods alright. They have “woods parties” in at least eight different locations. Many kids are taken to the ER after being at one of these parties, “fire-jumping” or brawling, or just plain overdosing on drugs.
Oscoda makes national headlines for the wrong reasons. This is the town that made national headlines when the “coach” canceled the football season. Is this a big surprise? In your town, or someone else’s town, it would be. Here, young people are treated like they are worthless inconveniences every day of the year.
Dillon Cliebold and his family got out of Oscoda. But what he took with him was a legacy of hatred and anger, that almost certainly was introduced to him in this small town, where youth are treated like nothing, and the older generations continuously work to promote their own welfare, at the expense of the young people who are trying to grow up here.