"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)



"The University of Texas at Austin extends its profound sympathy and
compassion to the members of the Virginia Tech University community.
Virginia Tech's students, faculty and staff, and their families are in
our hearts and thoughts as they struggle to cope with yesterday's
horrible tragedy.

"When terrible events such as these occur, our community reflects on
whether we are being vigilant and doing enough to keep our campus safe.
I want to reassure and remind members of our University community that
the safety of our students, faculty and staff remains our top priority.

"Our police officers regularly review and practice armed subject
scenarios and have the full support of our city emergency response
partners. Resident advisers are proficient in "lock down" procedures
and able to quickly communicate with their residents in case of emergency.
Our public affairs office works closely with local media to announce
campus shut downs at the earliest opportunity, and the newly installed
siren system is just one of many communications tools available to use
if we need to move everyone to shelter inside. In an emergency we use
all of the multiple channels of communication available to us.

"The greater challenge in emergencies is with individuals not knowing
personally what to do if they find themselves in a threatening
situation or if they have noticed a significant, strange change in someone's
behavior. On our emergency Web site, you will find safety protocols for
dealing with armed subjects or disruptive individuals..."

-Email from UT-Austin President William Powers

It is a fact of life that if someone is willing to die, he or she can probably find a way to kill a lot of other people. We work on an open, urban campus with no gates or fences to keep anyone out. What VT is learning today is that threats don't just come from outside. And that what is lost is profoundly sad. Not just innocence, or a sense of safety (although those things are gone, too), but the very real loss of people whose lives made a difference. Nineteen-year-olds who wanted to be veternarians. Professors who used their bodies to barricade the doors of their classrooms to save their students' lives. Students in their morning French class. A man whose research was among the best in the country in working to help those living with cerebral palsy. An student originally from Peru (whose father you need to especially pray for, as he is trying to get a visa to come to Virginia. The embassy promises to help.).

I don't know what we'd do if something like this happened here. The door to one of my classrooms has a window; the other doesn't. I have several big, strong athletes in one class, but not so many in the other. One classroom has windows, but it's too far off the ground to jump out the windows, which don't open anyway. The other is underground, so there aren't any windows. We'd be trapped, and all the safety protocols in the world can't fix that problem. And the loss of even one of my students would be an unspeakable tragedy.

I don't feel unsafe in my daily life (excepting those months when I'm in the Congo). I hope that I would be able to recognize a student who's having trouble, to help him or her find the assistance they need. I hope this madness won't spread to other campuses, even in the midst of copycat hoaxes / bomb threats. And I wait for a time when the warring madness of all the earth's people will be cured.


Blogger LJ said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 2:24:00 PM

Blogger LJ said...

There are just some things you just can't even begin to try to comprehend... this is definitely one of those.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 2:25:00 PM

Blogger Jess said...

i've been teary all day. it's just horrible.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 5:01:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

It really is. So sad.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 11:23:00 AM


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