Tuesday, April 17, 2007

shocked and numb


Hell of a way to wake up and start the day: a shooting spree at Virginia Tech, five hours away from my hometown, has claimed the lives of at least 33 people. The event currently tops the Drudge headlines. The shooter, who is described as "Asian," shot and killed himself after shooting dozens of others. It is assumed there was only one shooter, though the killings took place at two locations on campus.

I have to thank my old friend Dave, who sent me the email that alerted me to this. The event now takes its place as the worst shooting incident in US history.

UPDATE: The shooter was apparently of Chinese descent, possibly a Chinese national; his visa was issued in Shanghai. He appears to have gone off the deep end because he suspected that his girlfriend was seeing another man. When a counselor attempted to intervene in the argument between the shooter and his girlfriend, both were killed. Those were the two dormitory murders, the first two deaths of the day.

Two hours later, while those killings were being investigated, the shooter appeared in a classroom building, Norris Hall, loaded down with "an ungodly amount of ammo," and began methodically killing people-- thirty in all, as of this writing, many of them execution-style after lining them up.

The death toll currently stands at 33: two deaths in the West Ambler Johnston Hall dorm; thirty more killings at Norris hall; one suicide when the shooter turned his gun on himself.

Questions arise, of course, as to how this person, who I assume was a student, could (1) get his hands on this much firepower, and (2) manage to evade investigation for two entire hours, only to pop up again and perform the greater part of his killing.

I don't plan on live-blogging this; I'm already pretty shaken by events and will follow them as they unfold on the news, as you will. I visited VA Tech only once, but have good memories of the place. It has a pleasant, green campus. It also has the standard reputation for being a party school (I recall hearing about a famous incident in which an entire soda machine was pitched out of a high window in another dorm, Pritchard Hall), and it has a fantastic reputation as one of the nation's foremost polytechnic institutes. The campus is very spread-out. At first, I was sure that the spread-out nature of the campus was what caused the delay in spreading the new about the killings; now, however, it appears that the campus admin thought they would warn students of the first two killings via email.

I have to wonder what those fools were thinking. College students being who they are, most of them were probably asleep at 7am, which is approximately when the first two killings occurred. What the hell made the admin think that email was an effective warning system? Wouldn't it have been wiser to actually phone the Resident Assistants in each dorm and have them spread the warning through their respective dorm floors? The news would have traveled a hell of a lot faster that way. The same should have applied to other buildings on campus-- libraries, student centers, gyms, etc.: contact the people who manage those buildings, and have them spread the news as quickly as possible.

I understand the purpose behind a lockdown, but if people really thought that email was the way to spread the news, well... maybe that's why the killer had all the time in the world to stroll a short distance across campus and start up again.

UPDATE 2: As we all know now, the shooter was a Korean national, not Chinese.


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