Monday, April 16, 2007

April Horror: The Virginia Tech Massacre

The trouble with facts is that there are so many of them. ~ Samuel McChord Crothers

f you came here looking for Monday jokes, they are the post below.

What is being called by CNN the "worst mass shooting spree in U.S. history" took place today. As I am writing this post, a news conference is being held by officials on the Virginia Tech campus Blacksburg, VA. The "body count" (a term used by CNN and much too reminiscent for me of Vietnam media coverage) is now 33 dead and perhaps 29 wounded.

As I sit here typing while listening to the mostly argumentative and often absurd questions asked by reporters, I wonder at the training and intelligence of newspersons. The accusatory nature of many of the questions, expecially coming from one reporter (female voice) and the second-guessing by others, make it seem as if the campus administration and law enforcement are the culprits.

I learned when I was an army officer gathering and evaluating intelligence information that the picture of what actually happened is not immediately obvious. There are now bits of information available, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece must be evaluated for accuracy and relevancy and then placed in its appropriate spot the puzzle. This will take time. For example, at the moment it is not confirmed that the person who killed the two students in the dorm in the early morning was the same person who killed the others in the classroom building about three hours later.

One of the last questions, which I have yet to hear asked and which may never be asked and probably never adequately answered is: What is it about this time of year that leads to mass deaths here in the United States. It will be three days from today, April 19, 1993, will be the anniversary of the siege on the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas, that ended with 81 people dead. It was April 19, 1995, when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was bombed, killing 168. What is it about this time of year that leads to horrible massacres in the United States?

But the facts of what happened at Virginia Tech are for the future. Now is the time to mourn--and pray.


  1. And Columbine. I don't know why April would spawn all of this death. Wait, death is a natural part of life. Wanton murder is not.

    Now is the time to mourn.

  2. I couldn't believe it when I saw it unfolding on the news. How terribly, terribly sad.

  3. April 19th is my birthday so I know a little of the history. It's called Patriot's Day in Massachusetts and it's the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington & Concord (Revolutionary War). The zealots have adopted it; hence Oklahoma City, etc.

    I don't think this latest tragedy is related but time will tell.

    As for the talking heads (male and female), by about 6 hours into something like this, they run out of material. First, they keep running the same videos and interviews, then they start in with the "incisive" questions. They have to fill the space somehow.

    That being said, I still can't take it in and my prayers are with the students, faculty, families, and friends.

  4. Nick, I hadn't realized the April connection. Wow.
    My undergraduate degree focused on journalism. I had a Chinese professor who was absolutely rigid about objectivity and ethics. He made me proud to be a journalist for a time. Reporters ain't what they used to be. It's shameful.
    My husband and I have been discussing how obscene the news coverage is, and how reminiscent of other recent tragedies, including 9-11. Rather than people asking, "What would be helpful now?" or even "What could lead to such a thing?" the first questions the media jump on are "Who can we blame?" "How can we spin this to make what is already a tragedy, a controversy, too?" Very much like 9-11, this happened because it never occurred to decent, sane people that it could. They didn't lock down the campus after what appeared to be a domestic murder, because no one thought, "an entire classroom will be next!" You can say someone should have thought that, but I think that's expecting too much. In spite of the tragedies we've witnessed, we still live in context. There's no context for an entire college classroom being murdered in a small town in Virginia. And we balance on that line between regretting that we aren't prepared for such things, and being thankful that we get these things wrong precisely because they are still so rare.
    Thanks for the forum, Nick. My little girl's teacher is a VT alumna and indoctrinates all her students on how to be proper little Hokies. We adore her, and are heartbroken for her and her friends, tonight.

  5. Yesterday was another date of horror to add to the calendar of dates of horror that have taken place in our lifetime.

  6. What made it even worse was the news coverage. The anchors didn't seem shocked or horrified, in fact just the opposite; they carried on like excited school girls with an juicy bit of gossip.

  7. Everyone could have prevented this tragedy in hindsight. It's alittle different when it's unfolding in front of you with no rhyme or reason.

  8. I am still in a state of shock. Why do shooting like this keep happening in our country?

  9. it was just horrible!...difficult to understand how someone randomly assumes the right to take someone els's this what we have come to? believing we are god in every way?

  10. I just watched the service at Virginia Tech on CNN, joining in the tears. I was OK until the sing Amazing Grace was played. There is something about that song that brings forth my tears.

  11. I imagine Granny's explanation of April 19th is the correct one. I heard a rumor about April 19 being Hitler's birthday, but I'm 99% certain that's mere rumor. If things like that affected these tragedies, then I'm sure the birthdays of Stalin, Edward III, or even Caligula would have people committing similar crimes.

    I'm with TLB about the journalists...whatever happened to the attiitude Herb Morrison displayed when the Hindenburg crashed in New Jersey in 1937? Even after 9/11 when Dan Rather broke down on the Late Show with David Letterman, Rather apologized, but Letterman said, "You're human!"

    Something is eating away at our humanity. I have ideas, but as a mere human, I'll do my best by example (I hope).