I feel sick. I remember when I read about the Texas tower shooting. I was a kid and it didn't make any sense. My parents didn't understand it either. I don't understand this horrible event any more than at least 30 people were in the wrong place during an emotional tornado. It is like a virus that infects some people and pops up in the most random places.
I just returned from my swim and I was feeling so healthy and confident in life. I read this story and I almost burst into tears. If I wasn't at work, I would have.
2007-04-16 07:08 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry you're upset. It's just too awful.
I thought of Whitman too. I remember hearing about the Tower shootings when it happened, but like you it didn't make sense to me. In addition, I didn't remember that it had happened in Austin. I'd lived here for a few years before ndozo or Toby told me about it.
Those poor kids.
When the tsunami swept all those thousands of people to their creator I was saddened but not horrified. Nature strikes hard but it isn't personal. When people commit these acts, it has a purpose and my framework for thinking about the event changes dramatically. A tiger goes on a rampage and it may be scary, it may have been an awful way to die but that is just what tigers do. They eat. But people, I am people, am I like that, am I capable of this without a rabies virus running through my brain? Is the person next to me, with that violin case and the wicked smile, what is their intention. Forget the violin case, am I just spray in their world view. These events just leave me confused as to how to even approach the world.
2007-04-16 07:26 pm (UTC)
We are a part of nature. And a big part of the natural universe is randomness. It's all natural. There's really no difference in whether your kid gets killed by a tiger or a tornado or a rock that falls from the cliff above or a car that jumps the curb or a madman with a gun. It's all a part of the natural world.
It's also why I buy lottery tickets.
I agree that is makes not difference in the death of the individual. They die. But I feel there is a lingering energy after a madman or a war crime that is like a black hole's gravitational force waiting to suck in the first mass of ugly emotional energy that comes its' way.
I was thinking, if good results in the world, from a natural rain or bountiful crop do I feel differently than if a hero steps forward? The difference isn't that great for me but there is a difference. Sort of like a good-evil Doppler, the wave is longer when bad goes to evil than when good goes to virtue.
what is so weird and spooky and now unsettling for me with a kid away at college is the cluelessness and the time lapse... I cut-and-pasted from AOL AP:
"...What happened today this was ridiculous. And I don't know what happened or what was going through this guy's mind," student Jason Piatt told CNN. "But I'm pretty outraged and I'll say on the record 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."
Georgie's school doesn't allow cell phones. He hates to get in trouble, so he won't bring it to school. I wish he would.
The school also doesn't store parent contact info for offsite. Their only copies are in the office.
2007-04-17 01:22 am (UTC)
that would make me nuts.
I think Michael is going to Virginia tomorrow... he's having trouble getting a rental car, there just aren't any cars...
I am not anonymous... but that was me, sorry.... we're in the dark ages here suddenly today, might have been the weather... no cable as of this morning, so no TV, no internet... I'm piggybacking (shhhh) but the signal is very faint and sometimes not there... I guess we will be reading books
I knew it was you.
What's a book?
Virginia Tech needed an emergency plan. A big organization like that needs to be able to deal with a crisis promptly and proportionately. You'd think after 9-11 that schools and other institutions would have the tools and the procedures and the people in place for just this purpose. Do I think this is a wake up call for everyone to do the right thing and get their sh-t together? Yes. But just because the alarm went off doesn't mean anyone will break their hibernation. There are too many reasons to be still frozen.
2007-04-17 04:22 am (UTC)
College kids don't listen to warnings or alarms. They pull fire alarms for kicks and call in bomb threats to get out of exams. They are stupid most of the time. One VT kid on TV said that when he did get the warning to stay away from campus he went right over to see what was going on. I'm not sure the school could sensibly have foreseen that the two shootings in the dorm would be followed hours later by a massacre. I just don't know how I would have reacted if they'd done some big lockdown and nothing happened. Then the next time no one would listen. Sometimes there is no right thing to have done. Who could really imagine this happening? Almost any other time, it would have been the right thing to do what they did. How much madness and evil can a rational person anticipate?
It's hard to say what the right thing to do was.
The police thought the gunman had left campus and they were actually interrogating a "person of interest" off campus when the second set of shootings started. They had it pegged as a domestic, and had no reason to believe there was any further danger on campus.
They were wrong. But if they hadn't been, and had locked down the campus (just in case), would they be lambasted for doing that? I don't know. I think the police/emergency personnel are damned if they do and damned if they don't.
Much as we want to blame someone, it's the shooter's fault, not the police's. And if we find out the shooter was abused or misunderstood or addicted to violent movies, that only helps make sense of the senseless; it doesn't apportion blame elsewhere.
I also remember hearing about the Tower shootings when I was a kid. I really scared me. I went outside at night and stood and looked at the stars. It seemed to me that the only really scary thing in the world was people. As curculio said, you might be killed by a tiger, but somehow it would be okay in a way that being killed by a madman wouldn't be.
I heard an interview with a young woman who was in class and heard shots -- she looked out the classroom door and saw the guy with a gun. She immediately closed the door and with the help of other students barricaded it with a lab desk. The shooter tried to come in, shot through the door a few times (hitting the podium and the window, but no people) then gave up and went to the next classroom. Meanwhile, students with cell phones called 911.
She's a hero. She probably saved everyone in her class. She'll also probably feel guilty as hell because if she hadn't done that he wouldn't have gone on to the next classroom.... but I hope any kid I know has the sense to make a barricade and call 911.
It is just so tragic.
I believe this issue is one that can be debated. For instance, the fact that the police haven't said whether there was one or two killers suggests there were two. I don't think the shootings were connected if there were two locos; this was a reverse miracle with two of the worst events happening at once. It is therefore not likely to happen again.
Yes, there is the follow the fire truck syndrome. One should not be able to collect death benefits if one does this. Yes, college kids are in the experimental, inquisitive and challenging part (hopefully to be continued) part of their lives and are not easily corralled to follow even the sanest of emergency procedures. Yes, there are consequences to huge decisions like lockdowns, such as the boy who cried wolf syndrome. And yes, if they had locked the school down and waited until today to reopen, perhaps the killer would have had time to buy more bullets and go to any assembly where the reasons for the lockdown were being declared.
But yes, there are now 32 dead people and shock, horrible shock. I prefer to play things safe. That is why I am not against some of the craziness behind all the security measures at airports and elsewhere. After all, I travel to Israel once a year and the screenings there are more intrusive, though as a consequence, they seem better designed to prevent problems than to spin safety out of air and water bottles.
What is the plan in the case of a real terrorist threat? What is the threshhold for action? When do we start to act? These are the flip side questions to yours? Perhaps there is no reasonable compromise to balance rational anticipation with madness and evil.
2007-04-17 04:32 pm (UTC)
It's cold, but on some level you have to play the odds. Virginia Tech is the size of a moderately large town. WOuld you lock down a town because of a domestic shooting? How likely is this kind of thing on any given day on any given campus? How many hours of instruction would be sacrificed to "lockdowns." How many kids have been injured or killed in all the school shootings in US history? Things are going to happen. Crazy people will do crazy things. This shooting has really upset me, but I'm more disturbed about the kids who were recently killed when a tornado hit their school. That was predictable. That could have been anticipated and prepared for. It might make sense to make sure that schools can lock their classroom doors easily, maybe even bulletproof glass in windows and doors. But random violence is tough to respond to properly. I guess I'm also feeling sorry for the officials at the school. They must be devastated and yet they are having to defend themselves immediately. I hate the way the media covers this kind of thing and I think it pushes institutions to create stupid policies so that if something a happens they'll have a defense. I'd be more inclined to wonder how such a disturbed person could go so long without help and could get so many bullets. In so many of these cases, a little concern and compassion might have redirected a troubled person. Official policies often have the opposite effect. People should be nicer to each other and psychiatric help should be much easier to get. That would be my policy.
I agree that Israeli airport security has a level of reality and pragmatism that US security tries to imitate with tail-chasing and smoke and mirrors.
2007-04-17 04:51 pm (UTC)
I just read that he had been on depression meds. I truly believe that SSRI type meds cause explosive impulsive violent behavior, either homicidal or suicidal. I think that bipolar people given these meds are much more likely to do things like this. I've heard that they de-inhibit before they control depression or mania thus making it much more likely that the patient will act on violent irrational thoughts.
I agree you have to play the odds. When I play the lottery, it is when the cash prize is so high that tossing a few dollars (cost) seems trivial relative to the benefit of winning, even if the odds of winning haven't changed. I think this is the reverse of that scenario.
I'm in Argentina and am completely out of the loop with respect to the bliztkreig of news reports and face to face accusations and calls for heads. I'm not at all concerned with whether mistakes were made. My only concern is whether it is possible to come up with contingency plans that will circumvent worst case, less than worst case scenarios.
There is nothing like having a woman who is observant and has her mind clear to prevent a disaster in her realm (the woman who saw the gunman and instead of turning into a Hollywood actress, turned the table against the door). Most problems can be prevented with on-site vigilance, and proaction. The President of the University of Texas just sent out a letter describing everything they have in place to counter problems like this shooting. Then he points out that the solution is everyone's:
"The greater challenge in emergencies is with individuals not knowing personally what to do if they find themselves in a threatening situation or if they have noticed a significant, strange change in someone's behavior."
He then gives a webpage that offers protocols for action.
I believe this type of education is the first step. Having everyone aware of the fact that each of us is our best friend and each of us may be the last defense against horrors like this is a necessary assumption. There is plenty of blame to go around but personally, I like to look at myself first and ask, whether I could reasonably have anticipated the problem, reasonably done something, or even reasonably not put myself and others in further danger.
Some problems come without warning. These are best dealt with by those directly facing them. Problems that can be anticipated or predicted, especially with fairly good timing, are first dealt with by the group. In Central Texas, we have lots of tornado warning systems. We don't expect tornadoes during clear sky but we increase our vigilance during storms. When there are weak points in communication, it is up to the group, that is all of us, to determine whether that weakness can be reasonably addressed. If it can't, we might as well attribute those deaths to fate. If the weakness can be addressed, we have to assume that if we let that weakness stand in the future, we have failed and the deaths are on us.