History was made Monday. Usually, that’s a good thing – but not when it’s a campus shooting with the highest death toll the United States has ever seen. There is no doubt what happened at Virginia Tech shocked students throughout the nation, making them fearful the same thing could happen on their campus.
Although the violence is unprecedented in America, this isn’t the first time this type of grotesque student-on-student violence has occurred. At Columbine High School near Littleton, Colo., on April 20, 1999, two student gunmen killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before killing themselves. Thirty-three years prior, Charles Whitman shot and killed 16 people at the University of Texas at Austin from the 28th floor observation deck of the clock tower. After his deadly rampage, Whitman was killed by police.
Unfortunately, school shootings are a part of this nation’s history. Yet when they happen, they never fail to shake people across the country – especially those immediately affected by the loss – to the core. It is only right that events such as these are deeply felt, especially when the loss of life is so monumental.
Thoughts and prayers should be with the slain and their families, whose lives will never be the same due to a random, inexplicable act of violence. Security strategies at schools across the nation should also be examined now – and at scheduled intervals hereafter – to ensure everything possible is being done to keep everyone that works at and attends school safe.
However, all the plans in the world cannot protect innocent lives from an impulsive person carrying a gun and a grudge. University Police Chief Thomas Longo echoed this sentiment when he talked to the Oracle about the VT shootings and the possibility of a similar situation occurring at USF.”I wouldn’t say (USF is) totally prepared to handle something like this,” Longo said. “Because you can’t be totally prepared. You can only respond. What I do know is that our response is superior to pre-Columbine.”
Since violence such as the VT shootings is so indiscriminate, what Longo said is absolutely true. School officials do not plan for someone to come and shoot up the student body: they react to it. What schools can do is learn from the misfortune that has befallen other schools and try to take preventive measures, as USF has done – but that’s really all that can be done, as hard as that might be to take. Plan for the worst, but hope for the best. Unfortunately, most of the time that often isn’t nearly enough.
Americans should not let the fear that accompanies such events to take hold of their lives. Keep going to school, keep traveling, keep living. A murderer can take a person’s life, but can impact thousands of others if people allow their lives to be ruled by the fear and anxiety of what is – or might be – around the corner. Murder, while a real risk, is also statistically a relatively uncommon occurrence. In Tampa, for example, which actually has a relatively high crime rate, there is a .00006 percent chance of a person being murdered, according to statistics from the 2005 FBI Uniform Crime Report.
Mourn the loss and never forget the pain, but move through that pain and keep going. Don’t let tragedy or fear overwhelm your life and bring it to a halt. Keep going. It is what Americans did after the Oklahoma City bombings, after the school shootings in Pearl, Miss., after Sept. 11 and it is what Americans will do – and should do – after this.
Amanda Whitsitt is a seniormajoring in mass communications.