Blacksburg April 16 2007*
Blacksburg is a town in Virginia. Up until yesterday, it was known for the Virginia Tech football team. Now, at the point of gun it has leapt to international news. And local tragedy.
This is nothing new to Blacksburg. At the very beginning of this collegiate school year, August 2006 there was a manhunt for an escaped prisoner who killed 2 people before his rampage was through. As the end of Spring semester approached, another even more insidious individual, possessed of a jealous, social class rage & a pair of 9mm weapons, shot his way into history, killing himself but not until he’d murdered 30 plus people.
There are many things to be determined and said in the coming days. I will claim no special insight nor do I have any facts not available to anyone else. My thoughts are likely not too different from any observer. I have no criticism of law enforcement or the VA Tech administration for decisions made in the heat of the moment and now in the media spotlight. I do have first hand knowledge of the campus, and as with many universities, it is huge, many buildings, many open stretches of land, many people doing many, many things.
What needs to be corrected is so enormous. I don’t like being a reactionary or isolationist; I think a global community is a way to evolve life on this beautiful but increasingly dangerous home planet we share. As much as it’s an individual job first, we can’t do it without the help of the powerful people who, rightly or wrongly, shape this world. We need to implement policies which are virtually unenforceable and more often impede the innocent than pre-empt an individual or group bent on homicidal madness.
Virginia Tech is an international school with a large multi-national student population & faculty. They have a campus in India, and our current governor, Tim Kaine was visiting Japan, working to foster positive international relations as part of a conference, while sadly, one of his state’s schools, was being violated by a foreign national. Someone the state school welcomed to further their education. While no ties to terrorism have been discovered, this was an extremist act and by any measure, terrible beyond thought. [ Gov. Kaine flew home immediately and has been a strong prescence on site. ]
So many lives, young lives especially, are now irrevocably altered. They were facing tough final exams; many on the verge of graduation. Some will not have that future. Many will have a heavy burden when they take those exams & it will no doubt affect performance. Survivor’s guilt will assail some for the rest of their days and nights. Let’s pass on whether or not mental toughness is part of the curriculum for success. This was not on the syllabus.
They are implementing the mechanism for the kind of healing which grew from the killings in Columbine, Colorado. As of this writing, the crime scene with all it’s implications, is intact. Forensic procedures demand an attention to detail, even when the results are plainly evident. This deepens the grief of families and increases the stress on everyone there.
The press conference in a few hours, will attempt to provide some facts. The media, of which I once once a small part, from all over the world, will again pressure the people handling this awesomely awful tragedy. I do not mean to be glib when I hope they will learn to be part of a solution, rather than demanding the impossible, to get the real story.
I am grateful I no longer work at my old radio job for the first time, it was within walking distance of VA Tech. I’m grateful my only nephew left there 10 years ago, when he was an engineering student. I no longer have any real ties to Tech; but my home is within 10 miles of campus. I am sad past words for everyone involved. They all deserve whatever blessings may come their way. I hope they know it.
Dona nobis pacem
* copy has been edited to reflect the facts