Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Blacksburg Revisited

The news continues to come out of Blacksburg, Virginia, home of Virginia Tech, where the deadliest shooting in USA history occurred this past Monday. We learn more about the troubled lone gunman, who took his own life after taking those of 33 others.

We learn of heroism, of a professor, a Holocaust survivor, who barricaded the door so students could escape out the windows, before being killed himself. We hear the stories of students who survived, who knew those who were killed, and those who are lucky to be alive.

We wonder why these things happen. As long as there is evil in the world, these things will at least be attempted. But have we learned how to avoid them? Dom at Bettnet tells of a similar incident at the same school a year ago.

We hear a lot of talk about healing. To the average Catholic, some of it sounds vaguely familiar. We've known of tragedies in some parishes, followed by the bishop coming in and talking about "healing." Sometimes you wonder if it isn't another word for "denial," or "damage control," or "make it go away."

It wouldn't be the first time. After the Kent State shootings in 1970, KSU administrators sponsored memorial tributes for only a few years, and have worked to play down its significance in their history. In the years that have followed, most tributes have come from parties independent of the university. Memorials to the four slain were finally erected in 1990, of rather modest size, and after much controversy. (I was told by people there that the site of the shootings was covered by subsequent building projects. Somebody wanna get back to me on that?)

Closer to the present, you have to wonder whether the school will ever learn its lesson. This would require an honest view of those affected. At an interfaith convocation yesterday, officials invoked Allah, Buddah, the Dalai Lama, and God, but not Jesus Christ. This, in a city which is predominantly Baptist. Wanna bet most of the students are Christian? If they are, wouldn't school officials make their needs a priority, over putting on appearances for the politically-correct elite?

Michelle Malkin said it very well: "Instead of teaching students to defend their beliefs, American educators shield them from vigorous intellectual debate. Instead of encouraging autonomy, our higher institutions of learning stoke passivity and conflict-avoidance... And as the erosion of intellectual self-defense goes, so goes the erosion of physical self-defense."

Kathy Shaidle, in a particularly blunt editorial on the aftermath, also wrote: "[Y]ou will still feel as empty as you did before, maybe more so, and wonder why."

There is no quick fix for what happened, and everybody from the university president, down to the freshman caught in the crossfire, had better get used to the idea. It may not occur to someone until days, weeks from now. They'll start sobbing uncontrollably for no reason, or a sudden noise on the street will startle them more than it should. They'll wake up in the middle of the night from the same nightmare.

You can't fix an injury that you don't acknowledge is there. And you can't acknowledge what you don't know. And yet, in times when men become tepid in the face of overwhelming Evil, one man stands in its way, in a final act of defiance so that others might live. In that small corner of Darkness, the forces of Light stood up and fought back.

And so, the late Liviu Librescu, Professor of Engineering Science and Mathematics at Virginia Tech, gets the Tip of the Black Hat for this week. It's the very least we can do.

[UPDATE: More insightful commentary and lively comments from Bill's Bites and Confederate Yankee.]

Librescu, in a 2000 photo from Bucharest, Romania, as obtained by the Kansas City Star.
Photo/Kansas City Star


Anonymous said...

Actually, the May 4th Task Force, is a student organization at Kent State University, which receives PERMANENT allocations from the University to support the commemoration every year.

David L Alexander said...


Did I mention I was from Ohio?

My piece does not rule out the possibility that the KSU administration eventually got on board.

All I ever heard from people upstate was how the administrators did everything they could to pretend the incident never happened -- let's face it, everybody from Governor Rhodes on down looked really REALLY bad -- to the point of constructing a building over the site of the shootings. (I can't confirm that, though.) I'd like to think I had heard otherwise, but I'm telling you, back in the day, stuff like that was ALL i ever heard.

I assume you have some ties to Kent State. How long after this incident did the student group start, and how encouraging was the administration in the beginning?