Monday, April 16, 2007

Virgina Tech And After

After I taught my last class today I saw CNN reporting that 7-8 students had been shot at Virginia Tech. When I got home forty-five minutes later the number was 22. By five o'clock the toll was 33 including the shooter, if there was in fact only one. Now after ten o'clock at night there still aren't any answers and there won't be for months.

At this hour the only things I'm sure of in the coming days are the following:

Experts will sit at roundtables with coffee mugs in front of them and blame scary musicians and violent video games, clips from Hollywood blockbusters with more explosions then dialogue will scroll before commercial breaks, and weeks later the same talking heads will begin to blame themselves for sensationalizing the tragedy.

While this is going on politicians and activists will debate gun control laws. One side will argue that firearms make our citizens unsafe and that there is no legitimate need for semi-automatic pistols in the realm of hunting or sport if they pose a danger to our children. The other side will say that only law-abiding citizens obey laws and that if more of the students had been armed the number shot would have been lower as someone could have shot the shooter. They might add that no one holds up a gunstore before the commercial break.

During all the talk celebrities and public official will weigh in on each side with one organizing benefit concerts and television specials, and the other trying to pass legislation to prevent this ever happening again.

As the answers come slowly over the months, each less satisfying than the next, people will grieve the fact that they missed important clues and some will apologize for not recognizing the potential for this to occur sooner. Lawsuits will come on the heels of these confessions while black armbands are sewn onto football uniforms and memorials are dedicated.

College campuses will begin to look more like high schools years from now, with metal detectors and armed guards. Concrete barriers will stop cars from parking too close to dormitories and professors will be required to report writing which might hint at potentially dangerous students.

The time of an open college campus in the heart of a community, one in which you can now wonder about freely watching squirrels or passing afternoons in the library, will become as foreign an idea as the time in which you could smoke cigarettes in high school.

In the end all that can be done will be done. The answers gained will continue not satisfy, and we will continue to live in a world that is often cruel, unpredictable and tragic on occasion because in the end there are no answers for these events. There is no prescription from which these terrible days spring. The best we can do is comfort one another, try and be a little smarter, and hope that we don't build walls too high to remember what it was like before they existed.

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