My Own School Shooting Story

Let me begin by saying that mine is nearly seven years old, and was nowhere near as bad as the one today at Va. Tech. Mine involved only one professor and a seriously disturbed student, but I can't stop thinking about it right now. So maybe writing this post is therapy for me or something--I can't be certain--but it's something I feel I need to write today.

It was the first day of the fall term, 2000. I was in my second year as an MFA student at the University of Arkansas, and I was about to teach my first class of the semester. I was in my office on the 2nd floor of Kimpel Hall, with my friend Paul, shooting the breeze, when we heard two loud slaps, like a metal shelf hitting a tile floor. A voice called "help" twice, then another slap. A voice down the hall yelled something about a gun. Paul ran up the stairwell next to our offices to the department office upstairs to call for help--we didn't have phones at the time in the TA offices.

I thought the shots had come from the elevators, so I edged down the hallway, thinking I could offer first aid or something. I didn't realize until I was on my way back to my office that the shots had come from a doorway I'd already walked past once. Paul was at the end of the hall, motioning me toward him. I glanced to my right, and a figure slammed the door. It was the shooter, a man I'd never seen before.

I learned later that he was a graduate student who had been booted from the PhD program for not making sufficient progress toward his degree. He'd spent the last few years taking student loans and then dropping classes, and the department had had enough. The professor he killed, Dr. John Locke, had been his adviser, and had spoken on his behalf in the meeting where the shooter had been kicked out of the program.

Minutes after the door slammed--it might have been centuries, for as long as it felt--a UARK bicycle officer showed up and knocked on the door. I gathered my books, took the back stairwell, and went up a couple of floors to where I was supposed to teach my class. A faculty member came and evacuated us minutes later.

I don't have a point to make here, no policy recommendation, no universal affirmative. The next day, when I returned to classes after a night of heavy drinking, some students had started a memorial of sorts in front of Dr. Locke's office door. It took me a month before I could walk past that door again. I would find excuses to go up a floor to check my office mail, and then take the back staircase down to my office.

There's a recommended diary on daily Kos right now with the title "I Live In Blacksburg, And Instapundit Is Pissing Me Off." I just glanced at it, and no surprise, Glenn Reynolds is trying to make hay of gun laws before the bodies are even cold. Let him.

Not because I agree with him--far from it. But don't be outraged at him. Instead, if you're part of an advocacy group of some sort and you're asked by a media outlet for a comment, don't say anything other than "this is a tragedy, and our thoughts are with the victims, their families and friends." People who try to take advantage of these types of situations are the worst sort of assholes, and the public knows it. Let the assholes rage--they will lose. And even if they wouldn't, it's still the right thing to do.

We grieve today.

Addendum: Amy has her own version of this story, as it was her first day of graduate school. I hope she tells it.

Newer Post Older Post Home