Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tragedy and Aftermath

Horrendous tragedies reasonate. As the facts at Virginia Tech slowly emerged, I remembered the UT tower shootings 40 years ago. As an oldtime reporter from that time yesterday reminesced, "SWAT teams didn't exist yet. As the information came out, Austin citizens with rifles showed up to shoot back." Boy, howdy. A different time. I remember that so vividly. A friend called me about noon to ask if I knew what was going on. I didn't. I followed the story for the following hours. A Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter named Jerry Flemmons was on leave in Austin, but maneuvered to walk up to the tower with medics after Charles Whitman was presumed killed. Whitman was killed in the afternoon on the east side of the tower.

I will never forget his news story the next day which began, "Charles Whitman lay in the shadows of his final afternoon...." Great writing. Straight writing, in no way sympathetic to the shooter, if you twits are jumping to conclusions. He was recording impressions. He included facts as were known. It is difficult to cover emotions and facts and chaos. This was all of that. It wasn't sound bites. It was great writing.

Yesterday, the news talk show folks I listen to wondered about the slow response of media to this story. Are we jaded? they wondered at first. No, the media just had to figure out a major story had occured in WBF and then get out there. They are there now.

The Virginia campus is a gun-free campus, as is the law in Virginia. Obviously the shooter, as all skofflaws, ignored this. And of course, we already have had the national Position declared that we need to tighten up on guns....funny thing though. The program I listen to is not politically skewed one direction or another. Texans started calling in asking if the campus might have been safer if it was not so gun-free. They admitted if there were no guns in the Luby's at Kilgore, Tx. back in 1991, then who knows what might have been available? We like to think someone can fight back, but in the emergency, many don't. Or can't. Apparently campus security is not armed. Town police responded in two minutes. By that time, 30 were dead, 12-15 more injured.
I don't know enough about guns to know how good a shooter the assassin was to do this deadly damage with 9mm and .22 calibre handguns. But listeners were vociferous that gun-free is basically their idea of sheep in the field for the wolf to come. Lots of fields of sheep. Few wolves. But how delicious for the wolves.

Did Virginia Tech mess up? Could they have handled it better? Almost surely. Handsight is a great teacher. I'm sure things will change. What bothers me is the control freaks that seem to think if we only screw down the rules one more ratchet, we will all be safe. Not free, not comfortable, but safe. And of course, they are wrong.


Matt G said...

We can't say at this point whether the Virginia Tech administration and cops blew it, because we really don't know what happened, in full.

Context is everything.

Columbine, with a smaller campus and fewer dead, took a year to figure out what happened.

HollyB said...

The Luby's shooting was in KILLEEN, TX, my hometown, not Kilgore. There were a number of DPS Troopers in Luby's that day. They were at a meeting across the street at the Hilton. For some tragic reason, they had, to a man, left their sidearms locked in the trunks of their vehicles. Perhaps if even one of them had kept his pistol with him, George Henard would not have killed as many patrons as he did.
Henard, by the way lived in Belton. There is at least one good book that has been written about this shooting. The name escapes me at this moment, but I borrowed it from Mom to read. I remember thinking it was well researched and didn't sympathize with Henard at all. He had been stalking one of his neighbors there in Belton and was an unemployed, unstable loser, much like Cho.

JPG said...

Regarding comment by hollyb, above - -

Was the book mentioned Anatomy of a Massacre by Elinor Karpf and Jason Karpf?

See details on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Massacre-Elinor-Karpf/dp/1567960405

night lightning woman said...

My malapropism strikes again. Thanks Holly. Didn't see the comments for awhile--not used to getting any.