April 16th, 2007 16:39 EST
Thirty Three - A Number Virginia Tech will Never Forget
Thirty-three is a number, and it can be used to show many different things; flavors of ice-cream, miles to a destination or years of age. What it should never describe is the number of students who were killed in a single day at a university.
I never thought I would have to compare the hardships of pursuing a college education to those of war, but when 33 students die in a single day, the comparison is hard to avoid.
On January 26, 2005, the United States saw its greatest single day death toll in Iraq –37. Again, numbers used to show nothing more than what the world has lost, statistically. There is no mention of who these people were who died, other than that they were soldiers. Now 33 students have died and earned the same distinction. A shame it turns out like this, people are much more than numbers.
At this stage in the investigation at Virginia tech, it is impossible to determine what motivated the gunmen to commit these horrific crimes. There was mention of a girlfriend, but it is hard to imagine a crime of passion escalating into the murder of 33 seemingly random students, connected only by their enrollment in a university.
How could two shootings have occurred on the same day? How could the university have let the students go unaware for more than two hours after the first shooting? It is impossible to fathom.
Has everyone in this country been blinded by the constant barrage of explosions on television? Is the sound of a gun no longer cause for concern? It is important to understand there are times when fear of the unknown is a good thing. This was one of them.
Not knowing where the person who fired the gun and killed students was is not something that should bring comfort to the university officials. That should be scary. It is scary. And to let classes continue after murders have been committed on campus is unforgivable –especially when the killer is unaccounted for.
I can not stress how deeply this tragedy has affected me. It is still too fresh in my mind. I can say I am glad there were students who got away before they became another statistic to fill the pages of American history.
Those students who didn’t make it today will be missed. Not because I knew them personally, but because they were students like myself, people at a university in search of an education, gaining a better understanding of the world around them. Some of them died in a horrible tragedy that may have been unavoidable; that is, in itself, hard enough to deal with. But to let the operations of the university continue for two hours without knowing where the murderer was is criminal.
One of the first duties of the administration at any university, or school of any sort, is to ensure the students are in a safe learning environment. Those at Virginia Tech failed in this duty. I can only hope their terrible shortcomings dealing with this tragedy will serve as an example for other universities. With this heinous disregard for the safety of their students, Virginia Tech’s administration has provided universities across the nation the perfect example of what not to do.