Breaking News: VA Tech Massacre (We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming of the RP History Month)

I’m still processing today’s events at VA Tech.  Aren’t we all.  As a current full-time student at MIT, I walked across Harvard campus today for a class, trying to imagine how and where such a brutal event might unfold on either of these campuses I’ve come to know well.  VA Tech police and administration are already under fire for failing to notify the campus sufficiently of the initial two shootings (there’s two jobs  – university president and campus chief of police – that should open up within the year), and no doubt they’ll be living with the guilt and tortorous “what if’s” of their decisions today while we also question their ability to protect the 2,600 acre campus of 25,000 students (of which more than half are commuters).

I’ve been following the story since about 11 am, and I was struck how restrained the tone was as the news unfolded.  I couldn’t tell if that was the nature of breaking news via the internet, versus the intimate hysteria of watching video over and over on tv (until we’re numbed by the repetition).  Or if it was the suspended disbelief given no one was really sure what the f*** happened.  What f***ing chaos, occurring on a campus effectively the size of a small town, and early in the day.  Not unlike those first moments of confusion of 9/11, before word spread and we watched the second chapter of that atrocity unfold on television.  In the VA Tech microcosm, given the delay in alerting students about the apparent “domestic” dispute in the dorms, as the NY Times reported, “few students seemed to have any sense of urgency” as they went about their morning routines.  So horrible.  I remember what it was like to be at Brandeis, when about a dozen student and faculty died over the course of my four years there, including a junior killed in a bus bombing while studying abroad in Israel.  We came to believe there was a black cloud over our community.  I have no idea how VA Tech picks up the pieces from this.  To begin, they need to raze Norris Hall. 

Given the shooter blew his own head off, authorities have to resort to “[tracing] purchase records for two handguns found near the body.”  As The Financial Times is one of the first to report – while U.S. media races to supply us with endless video and first-person coverage of today’s horrors - we will see what this means for gun control laws in this country, if anything.   

My heart and mind goes out to the victims’ loved ones and members of the VA Tech community tonight. 


1 Response to “Breaking News: VA Tech Massacre (We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming of the RP History Month)”

  1. April 16, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    You’re right of course – both about the 9/11 touchstones and the college campus aspect (I’m curious how my coed coworkers reacted). I think the odd quality of how it unfolded had everything to do with the way the news organizations scambled, how little was known for so long. This wasn’t something “News Copter 7” could turn into easy pictures (Blacksburg being rather distant from media centers probably played a role in that, too). Beyond that, I don’t quite know what to say – what a tragedy. It’s really all so unbelievable. But we say that each time these things happen, don’t we?

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