Walking around the campus of Virginia Tech this week, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had been there before. I knew I had never been to Blacksburg, Virginia. So why did I have that unmistakable feeling of familiarity?
Suddenly it hit me. I had been there before. It was 1999. And the place wasn’t Blacksburg; it was actually Littleton, Colorado.
This was the “college Columbine.”
Like the last time I broadcast my radio show from the scene of a mass killing, the expressions of prayer, grief, anguish and confusion were all demonstrated by the people who lived in this community.
Notable, perhaps, was the absence of total bewilderment over what had happened. I suppose the Columbine massacre was the first in the “instant information” age, so this time around, people sort of knew what to expect, in a morbid kind of way. Hundreds of satellite trucks, the candlelight vigils, the palpable sense of a peaceful little community shattered by ridiculously needless violence.
Tragically, we had all been there before.
Incidentally, I will not say the Virginia Tech killer’s name. He was obviously someone who craved notoriety. The media stupidly anointed his videotaped death message a “manifesto” and, thanks to NBC’s lack of taste and ethics, force-fed his rambling, evil insanity for hours and hours on end. When I showed up to do my radio show this week, my producer attempted to convince me to play the audio cuts from the horrific video. Sorry, but that just wasn’t going to happen. I refused to air one syllable of this vile human being’s ramblings.
Did you notice something about the videotape that NBC enthusiastically played over and over again in order to achieve their ratings victory Wednesday night on the Nightly News? The NBC logo, complete with the familiar peacock, was superimposed over the mass murderer’s image in the upper left hand corner so that every single media outlet that played it or printed it on the front page of the newspaper would be sure to give NBC a nice, juicy plug.
Perhaps NBC could offer the next mass-killer-to-be a free NBC baseball cap or t-shirt that he can wear while videotaping himself killing a bunch of innocent people. That would be a promotional bonanza, too, eh?
I wonder how many Virginia Techs and Columbines are going to have to happen before America wakes up and recognizes that the most effective way to prevent this from happening is right under our noses.
I’ve heard all the same analysis you have: we need campus lockdowns; let’s install air raid sirens; perhaps a couple of armed guards would suffice.