Very OT: From a Virginia Tech alumnus

Chuck Munson chuckm_1962 at
Wed Apr 18 08:18:50 CEST 2007

Hi DCMLers,

I hope that you all will forgive this large off-topic
post, but I'm guessing that I might be the only
Virginia Tech graduate on the list and, since we all
are connected to this world by more than a love of
Disney comics, I'm guessing that a large number of our
"outside-the-US" membership may be wondering about
this tragedy that seems to reoccur here with
frightening frequency in one form or another. 
Obviously, this all hit a bit too close to home and
has occupied many of my thoughts over the past two

I don't pretend to have any answers as to why this
troubled young man chose to end his own and so many
other lives so senselessly.  I also don't pretend that
I can reconcile the debates around a) our 2nd
Amendment to the US constitution which absolutely may
or may not grant anyone in this country the "right to
keep and bear arms", b) the statistics that I have
read that up to 30,000 in the US die in incidents
involving firearms, and c) that what laws limiting gun
purchases here really don't seem to keep any criminals
from getting guns or anyone on the edge of sanity who
has never previously broken the law. 

I can tell you that among Tech students, faculty, and
alumni there is general shock that this could happen
at our university.  A hopelessly naive thought
perhaps, but for a university with a fairly good
reputation for research, academics, and sports, set in
a pretty southwestern Virginia mountain town where the
students outnumber the townsfolk 2-to-1, this type of
event is just not something we could easily imagine. 
However, I am not naive enough to think that the
parents of the elementary school children in Beslan,
or the school in Scotland, or Columbine, or another
school in California, or any other school shooting
would expect it any more than the parents of the Tech
students who died.  The disturbed young man who did
this lived only ten miles away from me and graduated
from the high school right next door to the recreation
center where my daughter Kathryn took swimming
lessons.  Kathryn will start kindergarten in
September.  Sending your child to school is not
supposed to be something that will have you worrying
about their safety.

I have very fond memories of my years at Tech; it
disturbs and saddens me to know that now my university
will be known by so many simply as the site of a
terrible tragedy.  Yes, I have connections many years
removed to the sites.  While studying Architecture, I
had engineering classes in Norris Hall where most of
the victims were.  The architecture building is less
than 100 yards away, so I walked by Norris almost
every day over five years.  I was always pleased that
I was in one of the smaller dorms on Upper Quad, close
to the architecture building, rather than the much
larger dorms like West AJ which I considered to be
rather dehumanizing and was told were places where it
was more difficult to bond with your neighbors.
However, I knew plenty of friends who lived there. But
Tech is so much more than this tragic event.

There is so much irony in the reading the portraits of
the victims in as much as many appear to have
represented what is best about the US.  One professor
was a Holocaust survivor who stood in the doorway to
his class to give his students a chance to escape; a
few of the students were International Studies majors,
something that some would say the US so desperately
needs in these times; two of the victims graduated
from the same high school as the shooter.

The good news is that we Hokies (the nickname for
Virginia Tech students and alumni) are a pretty
positive group.  Tech doesn't have a monopoly on great
faculty and students, but I expect to see a lot of
support and effort to recognize and actively pursue
the traits that trigger these decisions in mentally
disturbed individuals.  Also, if you care to show
support for my alma mater, I read that the Student
Association and the Alumni Association are asking
people to wear the school colors, orange and maroon,
on Friday.

Thank you for your indulgence.  I wanted our friends
overseas to know that neither Tech nor this incident
should be reduced to cliches.

Take care everyone,
Chuck Munson
Herndon, Virginia

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