Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

Greater minds than mine will probably have much more profound wisdom to offer on this subject, but here I am to try anyway.

First, of course, my heart goes out to all the friends and families whose lives have been touched and forever changed by this horrific event. It seems silly and inadequate to say so but it's sincere and really all any of us can offer at the moment.

Second, I had to stop watching the coverage last night because of the way the media is attacking the decisions of the university police--were the proper steps taken, was notification made in a timely fashion, etc, etc. I would be the absolute last person to say we should assume that people in power have done the best they can do and are always operating in our best interests--I know for a fact that that's often not the case. Furthermore, I believe it is not only our right as Americans, but our responsibility to question and even scrutinize the actions of the people in charge of protecting us. And if those people have failed through incompetence or deliberate negligence, I would be the first to say they should be held accountable.

But here's the thing: in this case, first and foremost, not all the information is available yet. There are facts that haven't yet been released that may play a part in our understanding of the decisions made by the campus police. They have stated that they thought the original shooting was an isolated "domestic situation" and that there was no threat posed to anyone else on campus. We now know that that wasn't the case, so it seems obvious to all of us in hindsight, after the fact, that they should've done more to stop additional violence. We know it happened, we make all our judgments based on the fact that it was going to happen. But the officers in charge didn't have this additional information--they had only what they had before them to make decisions about what steps to take.

When something as senseless and huge as this happens, it's only natural to want to make sense of it--to point fingers and assign blame. If we can figure out whose fault it is (besides the obvious choice of the shooter who apparently removed himself from the equation), perhaps we can keep it from happening again. It is much more comforting to assume incompetence or negligence on the part of campus security than to assume that a determined and disturbed individual will sometimes be capable of wreaking havoc no matter what defenses we engineer.


  1. I agree whole-heartedly. At the time, it looked like an isolated incident. How could anyone even guess what was to happen?

    I hadn't really heard about the 2nd part of the shooting until I got home yesterday. I'm very glad that I received email from my aunt who works on campus, around 11:30 that she was okay.

    I also work on a college campus. With my aunt being at VT and me on campus, it really got me thinking as I walked to my office today. However you cannot go through life completely terrified of the rare and random events. But it doesn't stop the tears from welling every time I think about what happened yesterday.

  2. So glad to hear your aunt is fine. I'm sure many people on campuses around the country feel very vulnerable at the moment.

    My boys have a classmate whose brother is at VT. He was fine but lost a close friend and his fiance was in the building where the major shooting took place, just one floor below.

    I think that's the scariest part of all of this--the randomness of it. How you can be in what you think is the place you're supposed to be, doing everything right and become a target. And for the same random reasons a person one floor down can be spared. There's really no way of knowing, which makes life scarier but somehow more valuable at the same time. Or maybe that's just me desperately trying to find some sense or meaning in this horrible event.