'Why Did All Those People Have to Die?'

Again on the very active Livejournal Virginia Tech student swift535 discusses the surreal aspect of a tragedy of this magnitude descending on the sleepy college town and how this could have happened:

"Some of my best friends now lived in WAJ, and I just keep remembering going over to their dorms to kill time and hang out. And it makes me wonder if I was there when it happened, would I be able to stop this?

It's been a long day of soul-searching for a lot of my friends and me. How does [expletive] like this happen? How was someone capable of such a thing one of our comrades? And honestly I am pissed off at the school right now. They had over 2 hours before the second shooting to close down campus, warn people, cancel classes, and they didn't. 2 kids were killed in a dorm, the shooter runs loose, and the administration just continues the day like nothing happened? Why did all those people in the second shooting have to die?"

By Liz |  April 16, 2007; 7:09 PM ET
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Keep in mind, many Iraqis are asking the same question...thanks to the actions carried out by the U.S. military. It may be one day at Virginia tech, but this has been five years for many Iraqis. Yet Chimp in chief wouldn't put a deadline for this to end.

Posted by: playa_brotha | April 16, 2007 08:38 PM

I am a recent Hokie alumni and a police officer in the area around Tech. I see so many comments of people already giving "what if" scenarios and bashing the president and police for not doing this and that. For those that are continually saying "why didnt the campus shut down after two students killed in the first incident"?

From the perspective of being a past student, if you are not familiar with the campus of Virginia Tech it is quite large (2600 acres), several miles across each way, hundreds of buildings, and at least 30,000 people on campus during the time of this incident. Closing campus and evacuating 30,000 people OFF of campus can't be done with the push of a button and especially with this situation it would have created a general panic within the community that would have caused even more problems then solutions. Imagine the traffic jams with several THOUSANDS of cars leaving all at once onto a relatively limited amounts of exits from the university.

Second, as a perspective from a police officer. Stop thinking about CSI and that everything in law enforcement happens instantaneously now. Interviewing witnesses, processing crime scenes, gathering evidence take HOURS and sometimes DAYS depending on the crime. Murder scenes routinely take 15-24 hours to process for evidence and interviewing witness and taking statements can take 15 minutes to hours long. If the first murders happened within two hours, the investigators would have been lucky to get a suspect description and find a few witnesses. However, they had already developed a suspect and information to believe the suspect and already left campus and believed to be fleeing the state from the witness. Never the less, all of you expect a decision to shut down the university which is basically a small town of 30,000 people immediately, especially when the AVAILABLE INFORMATION is that the police believe the suspect left and was gone BASED ON witness information which is ALL they have to go on at that point in time. Just think about the circumstances and vastness of this tradgedy and stop blaming people already before we know all of the information available. I will give you the honest truth though. If someone has already made up their mind that they want to kill someone and have no problem with dieing themselves, there is little you, me, or any law enforcement official can do to stop that person with that much determination. Unfortunately, the person that committed these acts was one of those persons.

Additionally, I can reassure that any one of the responding police officers would have given thier lives to save as many people as they could because that is what we do. I understand the anger of the grieving process but if you believe the police and university did not do all they thought they could with the information they had at that time then I ask you take a step back and really look at what happened today and see that very little if anything could have stopped a person as determined as that suspect today.

Posted by: ethiel | April 16, 2007 09:11 PM

It's been a truly horrifying day for Hokies and the questions posed by swift535 and others certainly need to be asked. My condolences and prayers go to the families of all the dead, families of students and professors who are losing children, spouses, parents, etc. Like the previous commenter, I'm a Hokie alum and familiar with the campus. He's explained much better than I could the law enforcement point of view, and I agree with him. The issue of contacting everybody is another criticism that continues to be levelled, because it's so easy to do, and it seemed such a no-brainer.

Is it really, though? The first shootings sounded, based on what's been released so far, to be a "typical" domestic shooting - a disgruntled ex-boyfriend. Who would have honestly thought at the time that the shooter would show up two hours later and randomly kill everybody in sight? I'd venture to say that this isn't the normal pattern in previous murders.

Second, a few hypothetical questions. What if the shooting had occurred off-campus? Given that 3/4 of the student body lives off-campus, that would have been highly probable. Should the university have been warned then? After all, the shooter was still on the loose. If you said yes to that, then how about those of us who work on urban campuses that have shootings in the vicinity all the time? Should we receive an e-mail every time there's been a shooting near the campus in which the perpetrator was at-large? I'd be getting e-mails every week, and the natural consequence is that they would be ignored.

The point I'm trying to make is that there's a line between keeping the public appropriately informed and over-reacting or desensitizing the public with constant warnings of potential threats. The university and police seem to have pursued a course of action that would be appropriate in almost all cases, and I'm not sure anything different should have been done. I'm hopeful that after things have cooled down we can have a reasoned analysis and learn from the tragedy, but we need to guard against going off the deep end. We live in and love our free and open society, but on rare occasions like today, we are stung by one of the few pitfalls of such a system.

Again, my condolences for all the current students and faculty/staff at Tech and the entire Blacksburg community.

Posted by: crusch1 | April 16, 2007 10:58 PM

When the plane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, I'll bet we evacuated most of downtown DC--a lot more people than the VT campus--in not much more than the two hours it took VT administrators to send out the first warning e-mail yesterday. I know; I was there on 9/11 and I was part of the mass exodus on Metro, on the roads, and even on foot. It can be done.

Shouldn't VT administrators have erred on the side of caution and cancelled classes after the first murders? Give students a little credit. Merely cancelling classes and ordering a lockdown isn't going to cause a mass panic, if the 9/11 attacks didn't cause one in NY or DC--and they didn't.

Posted by: scottwmathews | April 17, 2007 12:02 AM

Until citizens of the US get serious about demanding tougher gun control from their government then such incidents will continue to occur. As for where the blame for this incident should lie, citizens of the US need only look in the mirror.

In Australia, strict gun control laws were enacted after a shooting massacre claimed the lives of 13 or so victims in Tasmania about ten years ago. Since then, automatic weapons, assualt rifles etc. have been banned in this country. There is absolutely no conceivable need for such weapons to be available to civilians. Only small calibre, semi-automatic weaponds are available to civilians and a strict licensing regime has been put in place.

Hopefully, this tragedy will spur Liberals in the US to agitate for tougher gun laws with the same vigour that they pursue other Liberal agendas.

Posted by: dmc1978 | April 17, 2007 03:17 AM

This is a horrific tragedy and every 10 days there is a horrific tragedy in Iraq where 33 American young men and women die. "Why do those people have to die?" Bush rushes to the TV camera to lament the death of 33 young Americans because they are not soldiers.
I would be very surprised if he comprehends the similarity. He should publicly mourn today and every 10 days on TV for the death of 33 young men and women and the wounding of hundreds more in Iraq!

Posted by: hailey1t | April 17, 2007 09:34 AM

First off, my condolences, thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this tragedy.

I think its a little too early to be debating what the police did or did not do correctly. We know some of the facts (or so we think they are facts), but not all. And some that we "know" may be incorrect. At the moment, it appears at though there is really only one person to blame - the shooter. There will be plenty of time to assess the police handling of the events and to have a public discourse on the whys and hows. Now is the time for grieving.

dmc1978,
Apparently, the guns used were a 9mm and a 22 handguns, not assault rifles. The right to possess guns is number 2 on the list of rights the founding fathers thought important. The price of freedoms is never easy or painless. It was not meant to be. So before we go and undo item 2 of the constitution, there had better be careful, deliberate debate on the matter. Just because something might be effective, does not necessarily mean its the right thing to do. The communists and Nazis were both effective in many of the things they did (including gun control) but few would argue those policies were good.

Posted by: amaranthpa | April 17, 2007 09:37 AM

Virginia Tech and Opponents of D.C.'s Gun Ban

For those still in denial about guns owned or in the hands of unpredictably unstable individuals, need only read this week's headlines. In as much as the U.S. Constitution affirms our right to own arms, it simultaneously does not infer that anyone and everyone should have guns without a legal need. Virginia Tech, one of America's most prestigious engineering colleges, is not immune to the acts of a demented mind possessing a combat grade firearm.

The tragedy in relatively peaceful Blacksburg, Virginia is a another cautionary tale for opponents of D.C.'s tough gun restrictions. The District of Columbia is certainly not devoid of random and sudden shootings by individuals with unknown standards of responsibility and mental stability. The District's ban on gun ownership, the strongest and most civilized in America, must remain.

In a capital city with numerous levels of security concerns, only trained police and security professionals should own guns. Any District resident that wants to take a stroll a on warm day or night deserves as much assurance against being shot as a public official walking to their government office. Individuals with inflated perceptions of danger or personal rights have no justifiable right to have a gun. The mounting deaths and injuries at a pastoral institution for learning took away any argument favoring personal gun ownership.

The case for a tighter gun ban throughout the United States has been affirmed by the tragic murder and maiming of innocent students and faculty on a quiet college campus. In a stress-ridden urban environment like the Nation's Capital, the Supreme Court should first and foremost interpret the Constitution for the greater good and safety of American lives. The best balance between real citizen rights and genuine public safety in a gun riddled society is made when a strict ban enables us to randomly walk our streets and campuses without taking a bullet.

Dennis Moore, Chairperson,
District of Columbia Independents for Citizen Control (DCICC)
www.DCIndependents.org
dennis@dcindependents.org

Posted by: dcindependents | April 17, 2007 09:45 AM

Virginia Tech and Opponents of D.C.'s Gun Ban

For those still in denial about guns owned or in the hands of unpredictably unstable individuals, need only read this week's headlines. In as much as the U.S. Constitution affirms our right to own arms, it simultaneously does not infer that anyone and everyone should have guns without a legal need. Virginia Tech, one of America's most prestigious engineering colleges, is not immune to the acts of a demented mind possessing a combat grade firearm.

The tragedy in relatively peaceful Blacksburg, Virginia is a another cautionary tale for opponents of D.C.'s tough gun restrictions. The District of Columbia is certainly not devoid of random and sudden shootings by individuals with unknown standards of responsibility and mental stability. The District's ban on gun ownership, the strongest and most civilized in America, must remain.

In a capital city with numerous levels of security concerns, only trained police and security professionals should own guns. Any District resident that wants to take a stroll a on warm day or night deserves as much assurance against being shot as a public official walking to their government office. Individuals with inflated perceptions of danger or personal rights have no justifiable right to have a gun. The mounting deaths and injuries at a pastoral institution for learning took away any argument favoring personal gun ownership.

The case for a tighter gun ban throughout the United States has been affirmed by the tragic murder and maiming of innocent students and faculty on a quiet college campus. In a stress-ridden urban environment like the Nation's Capital, the Supreme Court should first and foremost interpret the Constitution for the greater good and safety of American lives. The best balance between real citizen rights and genuine public safety in a gun riddled society is made when a strict ban enables us to randomly walk our streets and campuses without taking a bullet.

Dennis Moore, Chairperson,
District of Columbia Independents for Citizen Control (DCICC)
www.DCIndependents.org
dennis@dcindependents.org

Posted by: dcindependents | April 17, 2007 09:48 AM

Well, I think we have pretty much seen what happens when bad people have guns and good people dont. I dont think further disarmament would be in our interest. The bad guys would still get guns. Ever notice how these things happen in so-called gun-free zones. Gun-free means when the gunman shows up you are free to hide, run or die. Maybe all three.

Posted by: ronjaboy | April 17, 2007 10:25 AM

First - I don't think we can pass judgement on the police and university administration until all of the facts are known. At this point, it looks as though they followed proceedures and did exactly what they should have done. Since the original shooting appeared to be 'domestic' and since witnesses said the shooter left, there was no need to shut down the campus. 'Domestics' not unlike this occur on campuses way more often than we like to think and campuses are not locked down each time.

Second -about the right to bear arms. Unless I am wrong, the constitution says that a well regulated militia, being important to the country, the people have a right to keep and bear arms. This is an ambiguous statement because we're not clear whether the Bill of Rights is concerned with the importance of a well-armed and trained militia (contrary to the militias of England at the time) or it is concerned with the right of citizens to bear arms.

Third, and not to belittle yesterday's events because I know a number of people at VTech, but this is what the Iraqis go through every single day and have done since March of 2003. Many parents no longer send their children to school because they don't know if they'll ever come back from school. Image living yesterday over and over at random and frequent repeats, perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow but perhaps not until Friday.

Posted by: pwhite | April 17, 2007 02:43 PM

I am deeply saddened and would like to send my condolences to all of those who were affected by today's events.

Washington DC has had one of the highest rates of gun violence in the country, even with the firearm ban in place...how will stricter gun laws keep disturbed people from going on rampages and committing such atrocities?

Posted by: ladytreez | April 17, 2007 05:34 PM

This is a quote from my blog. My name is Cody, and I am a junior at VT.

I was not asked nor approached by the Washington Post about quoting me on their website, and while there are questions in my head I do not think that it is the time for these discussions. These words were written at a very emotional time, and I do not think that people's focus should be on criticizing the school right now. For a better understanding I'd request people to read my last entry on livejournal.

Posted by: swift535 | April 17, 2007 06:58 PM

I know that the university wants to continue on without impeding tradition but if you replace classroom doors with high fire rated doors and double latched auto closure system would provide an unobtrusive and effective security and fire upgrade that would prevent unauthorized access and defeat attempts to bypass a door's locking mechanism. In addition the doors would operate and look similar to building exit doors and would not effect anything at all other than the increased cost of the full metal doors with additional hardware. With proper building design it should be possible to mitigate a variety of incidents without changing the behavior of the environment. But it is obvious that there are a variety of solutions that do not involve physical changes.

Posted by: a20052006 | April 19, 2007 09:57 PM

I thought about this act.
It appeared to be an act of Premeditative Mass Murder in which the murderer also murdered themself. It was held on the anniversary of Holocost Day a day to remember 60 million Jewish murders. Also day being expunged from college history in academia curriculums for Muslim populations at the present time.
The college professor was a college professor who survived the Holocost - though was probably targeted by Fundamentalist Islam. It's terrorism in my View not a case of the Wrong place at the wrong time at all Mr Bush. I Love America

Posted by: ifcj | April 19, 2007 10:15 PM

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