Horror hits home

Ever since I heard about the tragedy at Virginia Tech yesterday, I kept trying to put myself in the shoes of the victims and their loved ones. What would I have done in their situation, how would I feel?

As the day wore on, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between what happened yesterday in Virginia and what happens every single day in Iraq. I wanted to write something that could just maybe help us all empathize with what the Iraqis are going through. I don’t yet think my writing skills are up to the task, but I’d like to borrow some words from Juan Cole:

I keep hearing from US politicians and the US mass media that the “situation is improving” in Iraq. The profound sorrow and alarm produced in the American public by the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech should give us a baseline for what the Iraqis are actually living through. They have two Virginia Tech-style attacks every single day. Virginia Tech will be gone from the headlines and the air waves by next week this time in the US, though the families of the victims will grieve for a lifetime. But next Tuesday I will come out here and report to you that 64 Iraqis have been killed in political violence. And those will mainly be the ones killed by bombs and mortars. They are only 13% of the total; most Iraqis killed violently, perhaps 500 a day throughout the country if you count criminal and tribal violence, are just shot down. Shot down, like the college students and professors at Blacksburg. We Americans can so easily, with a shudder, imagine the college student trying to barricade himself behind a door against the armed madman without. But can we put ourselves in the place of Iraqi students?

I wrote on February 26,

‘A suicide bomber with a bomb belt got into the lobby of the School of Administration and Economy of Mustansiriya University in Baghdad and managed to set it off despite being spotted at the last minute by university security guards. The blast killed 41 and wounded a similar number according to late reports, with body parts everywhere and big pools of blood in the foyer as students were shredded by the high explosives. ‘


  1. Ian

    The thing at VT was upsetting. I felt more upset about it than Columbine because I guess I could tell myself that was an isolated incident, it just seemed so unreal. VT was a different story. I was sitting in my TEM lab when the TA walked in and handed us a printed out version of the story. All of us agreed that this could’ve easily been happening to us. I was in high school during Columbine, and in college during VT. For some reason VT just feels so much closer to home (beyone literally as I live in NC). I went to an engineering college for undergrad where people were always depressed and overworked. People did commit suicide, 1 or 2 a year. I feel like it isn’t out of the realm of possibilty for someone in that environment to snap. This guy was an English major yeah, and he had some serious problems to begin with. I don’t think the college environment was the real cause of this, he was a nutbag period, but I think he shows what such a person is capable of when put in an environment like college (which isn’t all fun and partying like people make it out to be). The stress of it all and his odd impressions of people seem to have given him, in his head, justification to act out his insanity.

    This guy at VT made a situation worse than Columbine. He made them look like amateurs. He showed just how much damage one person could do in a public place, and how easily he could do it. You know we talk about homeland security a lot, and we talk about whether it makes us safer or not, and maybe it does, but things like this will never stop happening. This wasn’t done for religious reasons. It wasn’t organized by some group. It was just some guy who snapped completely. You can’t account for that.

    It occurred to me about the situation in Iraq. I think that was another situation I felt so removed from that it didn’t even feel like it was really happening. You see these daily reports of death tolls, and you almost dismiss them because they happen every day, they are so commonplace. People are just numbers and you don’t really feel it. But I looked at how this nation was affected by VT, even the President went to give a speech, and I just thought that Iraqis and our soldiers are living it every day. However you feel about Iraq, I think everyone should be able to feel like the situation over there is beyond horrific.

  2. Chris

    This guy at VT made a situation worse than Columbine. He made them look like amateurs. He showed just how much damage one person could do in a public place, and how easily he could do it.

    There is an interesting article at Slate that tries to put the whole gun-control craze in perspective:

    When you look at the gun debate from this angle, two things stand out. One is that we should spend our time and money trying to stop bombs, not guns. Lots of schools have a whack job like Cho. For every one of those guys, there are a dozen students ready, if he commits a heinous crime, to say they saw it coming. But the crime almost never happens. If we’d kept guns away from Cho, the Columbine kids, and the University of Texas sniper, we’d have saved about 60 lives. Compare that to a radioactive bomb in one of the 20,000 uninspected cargo containers that enter our country every day.

    Do you know how many people got blown up in Baghdad on Wednesday? More than 170. A single bomb killed 140 of them. This happened at the same market where a bomb had killed more than 125 people two months ago. That’s four times the body count at Virginia Tech, in a flash. Do you think it can’t happen here? Do you think the people who smuggled a bomb into Iraq’s parliament building, through multiple screenings by U.S. and Iraqi forces, can’t penetrate our security at home?

  3. Ian

    I think regardless of whatever implement does the killing, we can all agree people died and that sucks. I’m not touching the whole gun control issue, cause once you say anything about guns every redneck hillbilly and every conservative comes out of the woodwork saying “We have the 2nd Amendment Blah Blah Blah” as though the constitution is the word of God. Whatever. Whether he had a gun or a bomb or even if he just went around stabbing people with a fork in the eye, the guy was going to hurt someone. He was just that kind of person. The whole, “Gun’s don’t kill people, people kill people” thing is true. This guy was going to hurt people, there were all the signs of it and people just ignored it. You see these professors saying, “Well I told the school but they wouldn’t do anything” in some effort to absolve themselves of responsibility. Like saying, “Oh I saw the train coming right for me, and I yelled for someone to push me out of the way, but they didnt and I got crushed.” How many people have you read about saying, “Oh I could so see this kid doing this”? I’m not saying they are responsible for what happened, they didn’t pull the trigger and it isn’t their fault the dude was insane, but for them to act like, “Oh I told you so but you wouldn’t listen” is such BS. If you were that worried about it, if you really saw it coming like you say, then maybe you should’ve done more than give up when no one else took action. Maybe you should’ve made them listen by refusing to shut up. I mean the guy stalking the girls and writing violent crap should’ve been enough to get him expelled, or at least FORCE him to go into therapy and be regularly supervised in his actions. People should just shut up with the whole, “I saw it coming” thing.

    I think it just sucks that some clearly insane kid got a gun a shot people, it just sucks, thats all you can say. Blame video games, blame guns, blame rich kids like he did, or whatever, bottom line is, people died for no real reason and it sucks.

  4. Ian

    And I guess I left off the bigger point. You may be able to prevent an event of the magnitude of 9/11 through all this added security. The truth is, you will never be able to stop terrorism completely. You just won’t. I mean its like people thinking that putting an extra lock on their door does anything when their house has windows (the fact that there are only 2 hinges on the other side eludes people as well). If someone wants in your house bad enough, they can get in.

    Iraq can’t get better with us doing the same things day in day out waiting for it to get better. Its been said, I forget by whom, that the definition of stupidity is to do the same thing twice and expect a different outcome. So if we keep the troop numbers constant, if we keep their funding constant, if we don’t change our strategy, then its stupid to expect change. Just expect bombings in Iraq everyday that it continues. Keep expecting school shootings because nothing changes, so why should they stop?

  5. Chris

    Our society is just far too open to prevent determined criminals from doing this sort of thing. Especially if they are willing to die for it.

    Hell, think about the guy who blew himself up in the Iraqi Parliament cafeteria. He was able to get past 3 or 4 checkpoints right in the center of the green zone.

    Like “they” say, the police/government have to be right 100% of the time, but the bad guy only has to get it right once.