The RP History Month Tribute: Lost Lives at VA Tech

Memorials of the VA Tech victims are being collected and disseminated across the web.  I can feel the emotion creeping up as more and more information becomes available; reading Seung Cho’s plays tonight, I felt more than a little trite after my pert intellectual soapboxing this morning.  (And as the experts remind us, profiling such killers is a relatively futile process.  Though, as the NYT rather distastefully observes, “Mr. Cho does not shatter the mold for mass murderers.”)

I’m thinking of a totally rad visiting professor my department hosted last year, Earthea Nance, a civil engineer on leave from VA Tech, who specialized in international development, specifically water and sanitation.  Earthea has moved on to the Office of Recovery Management in New Orleans, and thank god (for her and the city).  As I’m reading of students majoring in Water Resources and engineering, I’m thinking of her relationships to the place she so recently left behind. 

Yesterday’s tragedy also uneasily brings to mind the M.A.S., another product of the Fairfax County, VA school system.  VA Tech for his school was like UMass Amherst at mine – the default destination for so many of our high school classmates.  Even worse, the M.A.S.’s brother-in-law is a rabid VA Tech alum (even owning a sports car in the maroon colors of the university).  Finally, the M.A.S. was once in lockdown in high school after someone showed up on campus armed.  Both he and his sister were enrolled at the time; the school locked students in their classrooms and didn’t release them for hours after school should have ended.  No one was harmed.  I can’t imagine how worried his parents and others’ must have been, and how scary it was.  This memory has certainly been a part of the M.A.S.’s emotional processing of this horror in the last 36 hours.

As I sit here now, the local news is highlighting two local kids killed yesterday, Ross Alameddine from Saugus, MA, and Daniel O’Neil from Lincoln, R.I.  I’d cry if I could get the tears out when I read one student’s fond remembrance of Ross, a M*sshole through and through:

Ross Abdallah Alameddine, 20, a sophomore from Saugus, Mass., was known as fun loving and full of humor, friends said.

Leah Robinson, 20, befriended Mr. Alameddine last semester when they discovered they were the lone nonmusic majors in a music theory class. Mr. Alameddine was a “hardcore� fan of the jazz trio Medeski, Martin and Wood and loved the grilled chicken sandwiches at the West End Market dining hall and the teal Pontiac Grand Am that he had won in a raffle.

“He called it the car he got for a dollar,� Ms. Robinson said.

I’m right there with you, Ross!

There is just no solace in these moments right now (Walking from my car to campus this morning, there just happened to be a dorm evacuation underway…never seen that before…) 

What a f***ed up world.  Spring snow at VA Tech during the worst massacre in history, in the same week as the Columbine murders in 1999.  Trying to cope from a distance, high and dry in my urban abode away from the coasts and rivers now flooding the rest of Boston and New England (as a submerged Morrissey Blvd in Dorchester flashes across my tv screen).  This urbane cynic could probably benefit from the convocation tomorrow afternoon at MIT. 


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