Cho Seung Hui did not live the life he wanted. But on Monday, on the Blacksburg campus of Virginia Tech, Cho ended his life the way he wanted. And because of those two hours of slaughter and suicide, Cho attained the immortality he craved.
He carried out the killings -- and we of the media did the rest.
A month from now, few Americans will remember who his victims were. But, decades from now, millions will recognize Cho's face. When it pops up on a TV screen anywhere in America, they will ask, "Isn't that the Korean kid who shot all those people down at Virginia Tech?"
Cho is now up there with Lee Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. By documenting on videotape his rage, resentment and hatred of those he saw as persecuting him, and mailing it to NBC, Cho ensured the world would hear, in his words, why he did what he did. He ensured that we would see him as he saw himself, an implacable two-gun avenger of the injustices done to him.
Cho wanted to be certain his story would be told, and heard by America, in his own words. He succeeded. And out there in America, other loners, unable to connect or communicate, nursing grievances and grudges unknown, seeing a future not worth living, are going to look on the blaze of hideous glory with which Cho went out and say to themselves, better such an end than continuing on with this hateful life that I am leading to nowhere.
As Cho in his diatribe referred back to the killers of Columbine, future killers may reference him. Unable to be a part of a group, or unwilling to try, Cho now belongs to a rare community -- of the most famous mass murderers of them all. Five times as many people were cut down in Cho's spree as died in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre by the gunmen of Al Capone. And the people who died at Blacksburg were all innocent. They were not the thugs and hangers-on of the North Side Gang of George (Bugs) Moran.
Though the 32 dead in Blacksburg were the victims of hate and evil, to some, the massacre was another argument for gun control. Yet, when one reporter began asking Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine the gun control question at a press conference, Kaine cut him off:
"Our focus is on the families and helping this community heal, so to those who want to try to make this into some little crusade, I say take that elsewhere. ... For those who want to make this a political hobby horse they can ride, I've got nothing but loathing for them. ... Let this community heal."