“There’s been a shooting on campus. You all get the hell out of here! Go home!”
Those were the words of my boss as he broke the news to me and my coworker that a gunman was on the loose at Virginia Tech, a couple of blocks away from our office. At about that time, we received a call from a friend that works within the local police department, “…reports are there is an Asian kid wearing a bulletproof vest, carrying multiple guns. Eight people are dead and 24 injured”.
By now, we know that those number of individuals shot dead in cold blood stands at an official 31. ABC News is reporting 32 dead. It’s the second worst school fatality event since 1927 when bombings killed 45 in
As a personal note, when I was informed about the shooting, I grabbed my phone. My wife and brother were in class at the time. My wife, as I would later find out, left her phone at the house. She made it off campus before buildings were locked down. My brother was on his way home after being told to leave campus during class. I just found out from a phone call that a friend of a friend was shot. His status was not known, other than he was transported to a hospital [as of 9:00pm, was pronounced dead]. Not all victims were students. The town is in a state of shock, disbelief, anger and grief. For those that don’t know,
Today, the Appalachian spirit of semper liberi, living free, has been shattered for our community and region. Sure, we’ll have certain civil liberties under scrutiny for the coming weeks but I’m thinking more of our quality of life. Students, faculty and staff at Virginia Tech lost a piece of their freedom from fear today. They lost their, albeit false, sense of security in small town
Two poetic writings have been rolling through my head this afternoon as the death toll has risen:
No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were:
any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind,
and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls;
it tolls for thee.
Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, no. 17
And Don McLean’s ending of innocence epic, American Pie…
A long, long time ago...
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while.
But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn’t take one more step.
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.