Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"My heart sank down to my toes".

Our country is in shock this morning as more details emerge of yesterday's agonizing day. A lone gunman took the lives of 32 Virginia Tech students and teachers. And he took his own life so we will never know definitive answers to the questions of why.

The campus looks quite beautiful from the live shots of it on the television. It is hard to comprehend such ugliness there. Yesterday morning was a pivotal time in the lives of the student population, whatever innocence of youth possessed is now lost forever.

Professor Liviu Librescu, a Romanian by birth, a Holocaust survivor, surfaces as a true hero. A professor in the engineering school, he held the classroom door shut and yelled for his students to flee to safety. The students opened the windows and jumped from the second floor classroom. The 76 year old professor was shot and killed.

Yesterday was Holocaust Survivor Day.

Cho Seung-Hui is named as the killer today. His weapons of choice were a 9mm pistol and a .22 calibre handgun. He carried the receipt from the purchase of the weapons in his backpack.

Cho Seung-Hui was a South Korean born 23 year old Senior at Virginia Tech. He was an English major and he was a resident alien from Centreville, Virginia. So, how was a resident alien able to purchase guns?

The usual knee jerk reaction was heard, almost as soon as the story began unfolding on television yesterday, that the government must step up tougher gun control legislation. The people proposing tougher laws don't understand that laws don't keep guns out of the hands of the bad guys. If it did, Washington, D.C. wouldn't have such a high murder rate. All guns are illegal there, except for the police.

The second amendment gives Americans the right to bear arms. To many Americans the second amendment is as sacred as the first amendment is to those spouting hateful speech and brandishing their right to do so. This freedom stuff is tricky, isn't it? Guns are not to blame. People are to blame.

I would like to see stricter enforcement of background checks. I would like to see the loophole at the gun shows brought to an end.

I don't think this is the time to point fingers and accuse anyone of not doing what could be done to protect the students. I do think there are many questions to be answered. My heart is broken for the families shattered. My heart is heavy for the parents of this troubled young man and the burden they will carry the rest of their lives.

I would like to know why there aren't surveillance cameras in use on campus, especially at the entrances to buildings. I have questions as to why I saw so many police standing around yesterday and not doing something, anything, as it all unfolded.

I don't blame the initial reaction of the university administration to treat the first two victims at the residence hall as a controlled situation. I do think the time has come to stop with the politically correct language used by administrators to students. Do not send out e-mails declaring an 'unfortunate incident' happened. Tell them someone shot and killed two people in their dorm and to protect themselves.

From what I understand from news reports, many of the campus security guards were not armed. That is insane. From a personal perspective, my son attends a large, urban public high school. Houston Independent School District employs their police force to protect the schools. My son's school has a continuous shift of armed HISD police every day. They patrol on bikes. They are in uniform, armed, and immediately recognizable. Yes, they have guns. They also have tasers and night sticks. I wouldn't have it any other way. It is the times in which we live.

My son's school holds drills for emergency situations. The drills are announced in advance to the parents in the form of the weekly newsletter from the school and by taped telephone message to the parents delivered in the evening when parents are usually home. When a lockdown is to be practiced, everyone knows what to do.

The college student said, "My heart sank down to my toes" as she learned of the events on campus that morning.

Mine, too.


AC said...

This is so hard to comprehend. The story of the professor holding the door closed so his students could climb to safety put me to tears. I didn't know it was Holocaust Survivor day.

This is the true definition of Hero.

I don't think the UT police are armed either, but I may be wrong. For the most part, their duties are traffic and late night drunk student retrieval and some theft, usually of ipods and bikes. When I read the school crime reports, and I do every day, its not much to worry about.

There have been a couple of very violent crimes on coampus in the last 6 or 7 years but the UT police always call in the city or county police then.

At UT yesterday afternoon Jenny called e to tell me about a bomb threat in the Humanities building. Everyone was evacuated and she said there were police cars and policement everywhere, plus bomb sniffing dogs. After VaTech yesterday, the alert level was elevated. It was a hoax, but one day, it won't be.

Very scary times. So incredibly sad. How does one continue? The immediate media blame game does nothing to help. It was the gunmans fault.

Beverly said...

Such sadness one person inflicted upon a school. Watching the service this afternoon, seeing the anguish on faces reminded me of 9/11 and the prayer service at the National Cathedral.

Yes, it is definitely time for the political correctness to cease.

srp said...

I thought they should have locked down the school earlier too, but then remembered that our town in MS had but 15,000 residents and I couldn't imagine being able to lock down that town. VA Tech has a population twice that... how would you completely lock it down.

I think it entirely possible that this was not a snap, crack, over the top sudden reaction of this fellow but a well thought out, meticulously planned event. It is entirely possible that he carried out the first two murders specifically to mislead the campus police and give himself time to go after his main targets. He might have even been the one who called in the 911 call.

They report that he went back to his dorm, changed clothes and picked a backpack with ammunition and chain in it. This explaining the two hour delay.

This led me to think... what if they had locked down the college earlier. There he would have been locked in his dorm...frustrated... with ... let's see... some of those dorms hold 900 students. Many would not have checked their e-mail to know to lock doors. The doors wouldn't block the bullets. What carnage could he have managed in his own dorm? Just as much if not more. There was no RIGHT and PERFECT way to handle this...

It made me angry to see armchair commentators and reporters asking sneering and snotty questions to the obviously distraught police chief and college president. Only those trying to get a handle on what was going on, determine how many shooters there were and what fire power he had... only personnel there in those horrifying moments really know how things went down. How many of us would react any faster to the situation? I doubt any of us could.

colleen said...

I'm sure things will change now, but Blacksburg is so not an urban setting. It's like a small town. I suspect the man would have killed whether they locked down or not, maye the people he killed would have been different though. Just a thought.