My first day of grad school was actually my first day of teaching. It was a Monday, and the freshman composition classes I'd been assigned to teach were MWF. My own classes were all TR. So my first day was actually the culmination of what at Arkansas they called - probably still call - "boot camp": a week of starting to learn to teach the classes you need to teach to pay your way through school.
I remember I wore severe, dark clothing and tied my hair back in a tight bun: I was only 25, and didn't yet have the "gravitas" that academia requires of its professionals, the wrinkles and such which I now happily have in spades! :-) When I walked into the classroom, young voices hushed and I heard a girl whisper "is that our teacher?!" - well, it was their first day too! We went over the syllabus, introduced ourselves, and I looked at my watch: 12:15... I was ashamed. My first class and I had nothing after fifteen minutes! Still: I had nothing. So I let them go, and slowly packed my bag, worried that my boss, Pat Slatterly, whom I would soon come to love, would see me slinking back to my office just 15 minutes after I was sent out on my first mission!
I walked back to Kimpel Hall slowly, and instead of taking the first entrance, I walked all the way round to the main entrance, to get there a little slower... this really was evidence of my shame, because it was about 104 degrees that day, with high humidity, and it was uphill the whole way. I could've ducked in the back and taken the elevator, but instead I gave myself my slow punishment-walk in the sun.
It's these sorts of odd details you linger on, years later. John Locke was murdered in the office next to mine. I wasn't in my office: I was at the front door when first dozens of students came running out. I was so in-my-own-bummed-world that I was going to go in anyway. A guy stopped me: "don't go in there," he said. "A guy's got a gun." I didn't believe him, but at the time I smoked, and I didn't want to run into Pat anyway, so I stopped for a cigarette. Then, people started pouring out, in terror. They were yelling about gunshots. I heard a guy joke it was probably firecrackers. One cigarette stretched out into four. My second freshman comp class of the day lay out of reach, on the second floor. I looked up there (the 2nd floor had a big picture window just above the main entrance) and I saw Brian standing in a thick crowd of evacuees. We'd just met, casually, a couple days before. The police moved us farther back, then across the street, then down the street. I realized my second comp class was not going to happen.
Did I say 104? It was more like 108, actually. But, with my bag still full of all the books a freshman comp student has to buy for class (heeeeavy), I began tromping, again uphill, to the office that would give me my fellowship check. It was so hot, and my bag was heavy, so I kept stopping under small trees to take a breath and get some shade. Also, I was lost. As I stood in small shade catching my breath, I saw Brian. He showed me where the office was, told me what he'd seen. Took me to his choo-choo train bank (yes, a bank in a train car - don't even get me started on the symbolism of that!), which, that day, became my bank, and where we got our money and then went straight to a bar. It took us a while to figure out what had happened, and that Brian had been the last person to see the shooter alive, before he shot himself. My brave Brian who heard gunshots and walked towards them, while everyone else was running away - who heard John Locke's last words crying for help, who heard Bethany yell "he's got a gun" - and still went to see - if he could help.
Ye Professor Panglosses might say that it was for the best that John Locke was brutally murdered for that led to our love, but the only thing I find more offensive than that is the way the media feeds on this kind of tragedy. I spent my first year of grad school dodging reporters. I am appalled that the media is actually SHOWING the pictures etc. that the VA Tech murderer sent to them. They feed on tragedy like bloodsucking... there is nothing nasty enough in the animal kingdom to compare them to. People ask "why" "why does this happen?" When the answer is perfectly obvious: there are a lot of people in this world, and some of them are defective - but ALL of them want attention. And the defective ones will kill and die for it. So what do the vermin do? They GIVE them the attention they want. NBC should be held legally responsible for the next shooting like this that happens.
And it isn't just schools. My best friend Stacy lives in Salt Lake City. The recent shooting at Trolley Square brought her right back to Sept. 9, 2000, the day John Locke was murdered. It's the same sickness...
After a year, Pat Slattery, whom I love, moved into John Locke's office. He was the only one brave enough, strong enough, to do so. We forgot about that piece of shit who killed John Locke. We remember John Locke's name, not his. I never saw a picture of him, nor do I ever want to. I don't want to know his "reasons" because they're bullshit. Let him and all these disgusting killers fade into obscurity. Honor the victims, give the killers nothing. NOTHING. Let them be faceless, nameless worms. Even if it doesn't make them go away, it's what they deserve.