Archive for April 17th, 2007

Va. Tech

Vt_2 The shootings at Va. Tech yesterday were shocking and upsetting.  Writing about shocking and upsetting events sometimes helps me sort through my feelings.  It won’t necessarily make me feel better, but it might keep me from dwelling too much. 

Yesterday morning Heather stuck her head in my office and said – "Did you hear about the shooting at Va. Tech?  Twenty people have been killed."

I said – "No!" and immediately pulled it up on line.  The news feed I picked up said that one person had been killed and twenty injured.  So I reported that back to Heather.  And we both started trying to figure out the truth to the numbers.  As the numbers rose, the broken story started to come together. 

I went home and ate lunch with my mom.  At first we sat outside in the pretty breezy sunshine and let the dogs lay on our feet.  Then we started to discuss the shootings.  Mama commented that it was snowing in Blacksburg this morning.  The nice day lost some of it’s warmth and Mama and I went inside to watch MSN, FoxNews and CNN.  We discussed what we would do if someone in our family went to Va. Tech and we hadn’t spoken with them.  We decided we would get into the car and start driving, simply to have something to do with ourselves.  Mama recalled that when September 11th happened and my dad was in on a transatlantic flight from Vienna to Dulles, she got in the car and drove to Athens to be with Travers and me. 

The people on tv kept talking about the school’s response.  I obviously have nothing to compare such a tragedy to, except September 11th – and that happened thousands of miles away from my campus.  I started thinking about how when the first plane struck the world trade center I was walking out of Theta on my way to my 9:30 class.  Emily was with me, and I was, as usual, running late. I’m fairly certain I had some sort of bagel or toast in my mouth and a coke in my pocket for breakfast.   Mama called me to tell me what happened, and as I was talking to her the second plane crashed.  Mama told me I needed to find a television.  Emily told me we were going to miss the bus.  I wasn’t even sure I knew what the world trade center was.  I hung up the phone,  locked the front door of the house, and hurried off to class.  The class was organic chemistry and my teacher was losing patience with me. 

The class was an hour and a half long. Apparently I was the only one in attendance to have been running late enough to have heard what was happened in new york.  As I sat in class, my mind began to process what my mom was describing to me in real time on the phone.  I spent the last 45 minutes of the class having a mental battle as to whether or not I would raise my hand and ask the teacher if he was aware of what happened.  Because something inside me realized that this would be something we remembered, something that would change things.  And anyone who has ever had a class with me knows that I have no problem talking out of turn or interrupting anyone.  But I didn’t say anything.  I just sat there.  And when we were finally let out of class, we walked out into absolute chaos. 

I can imagine that the Va. Tech campus was like that, only a million times worse.

While I was fixing my lunch yesterday, it occurred to me that I had been sitting in this exact place when Columbine happened 8 years ago.  I was a senior in high school, and with the time change between georgia and colorado, I was already home from school when the serious coverage started.  I remember watching the images of the high school students being rushed to safety with their arms over their heads by the swat team on the little TV in my parent s kitchen.  And I remember it being all very surreal, because I had been in my own high school building minutes before.  My own high school, where fights were common and guns were definite possibilities.  But I’d always felt safe. 

And I always felt safe at UGA.  I don’t know what precautions could have been taken, even though obviously very few were taken.  I’m not sure that some email, even if I received it before I left in the morning, would have kept me from going to a class I needed to go to.  Not that I didn’t ever skip class, but I skipped class for my own personal interest – because I wanted to sleep, or go out of town.  If I was already dressed and ready, and it was an important day, and the reports were sketchy and across campus, I can’t say I would have ever imagined that something so horrific could take place. 

But now it isn’t something to imagine, it is something that has happened.  In the same way that if my mom ever called me in the morning and told me a plane had crashed into a building and I needed to find a television that I would drop what I was doing and find a television, I’m sure college alert systems and caution emails will now be considered in a different light. 

Although, in my humble opinion, if someone wants to kill a bunch of people at apparent random, there is going to be little anyone can do to stop him or her.  The lack of control, is the truly scary part. 

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