Shooting Rampage Raises Troubling Questions
Monday’s massacre at Virginia Tech–the deadliest mass shooting in American history–highlights at least one tragic reality: more than five years and seven months after 9/11, almost eight years to the day after the Columbine High School bloodbath–in which two Colorado teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives–the United States still does not take security seriously. Not really.
It is incomprehensible and inexcusable that the gunman was able to open fire in a dorm and then … two hours later … in a classroom across campus after the administration had essentially allowed–or encouraged–students to carry on as usual.
One student who was interviewed by the Fox television network said he and his girlfriend were walking toward the engineering building, where most of the victims died, and only prevented from entering the facility by an alert policeman who led them to the safety of his patrol car. From there, the two students observed wounded or dead shooting victims being carried from the building.
Another student told CNN: “I’m pretty outraged that someone died in a shooting in a dorm at 7 o’clock in the morning and the first e-mail about it–no mention of locking down campus, no mention of canceling classes–they just mention that they’re investigating a shooting two hours later at 9:22.”
He added: “That’s pretty ridiculous, and meanwhile, while they’re sending out that e-mail, 22 more people got killed.”
Actually, at least 30 or 31 more people got killed.
Why weren’t the students told to lock down and barricade themselves into their rooms early in the morning right after the first shooting, when the gunman was still at large?
Why, after Columbine and 9/11, do universities still lack relatively simple but effective security measures–for example, a campus-wide siren system that could signal evacuation or lockdown orders?
As our prayers and thoughts go out to the victims and their families, let us also resolve to get to the bottom of what happened so that we as a nation may finally do our best to prevent such an awful tragedy from ever happening again.
The administration may seek to deliberately divert attention from its own apparent mistakes and missteps by emphasizing the need for “healing” and psychological assistance to the survivors and the victims’ families at the expense of relentless fact-finding and rigorous analysis. Certainly, help is needed. Nobody disputes that. But the best therapy–and the most appropriate memorial to the victims–would be a series of concrete steps to improve security on campus and share valuable knowledge and insights with other schools and institutions.
Again, along with tragic and shocking … and sickening … incomprenesible and inexcusable are words that come to mind.
Post Script: Classes were canceled on the first day of school last August, and students were told to stay in their rooms, when a hunt for an escaped inmate accused of killing a sheriff’s deputy and a security guard ended with his capture at Virginia Tech. The escaped inmate, described by state and local law enforcement officials as an “anti-government survivalist,” was found hiding shirtless and shoeless in a briar patch near campus athletic fields and less than 150 yards from where he is alleged to have shot and killed a popular and highly decorated sheriff’s deputy.