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Weighing in on Seung-hui Cho and the Virginia Tech killings

April 19, 2007

It’s taken me a few days to get my bearings on the shootings that took place at Virginia Tech on Monday, and I’ve felt relatively reserved about commenting on it. The bleats from the mass media are so loud already – why add one more voice to the parade?

I don’t claim to understand what happened – facts continue to stream in and holes remain in this sad story. But what I do know and understand is that Seung-hui Cho was a sick person. I also tend to believe that Virginia Tech, from first and second glances at the event, did not respond with a swiftness that should have prevented or at least radically reduced the carnage that took place on Monday.

When we get into the particulars of the should have/could have/would have analysis, arguments seem to be surrounding whether gun control or better response to mental health problems would have prevented the massacre. I’m not so sure that I am compelled by either argument, and I feel very torn about all the seemingly open doors that made it seem so easy for Cho to do what he did without being stopped. In the end I believe that 1) Cho needed help and wasn’t receiving an adequate amount and 2) he shouldn’t have been able to buy a gun so easily.

I’m a frequent reader of Cognitive Daily, which has had some interesting dialogue recently concerning the shootings. Today they focused on the mental health of college students, noting that about 170,000 students in the U.S. attempt suicide every year, and 9 times that number consider it. Their rightful conclusion:

Obviously, all these students need psychological or psychiatric help, but how do you determine which of them need to be removed from the classroom and/or forced into treatment? You certainly can’t justify removing 1.5 million students on the chance of stopping one Cho Seung-Hui.

You also can’t force them to all get help, until they demonstrate a risk of harm to others. Clearly, campuses need to review their mental health policies and prioritize care in conjunction with swiftly moving on threats that happen. But the bottom line is that we can’t all of a sudden view every depressed and suicidal student as a potential killer.

VT Students MournI’ll write about this more later this week. Meanwhile, this letter spoke to me as I was wrestling with the issues today. I’m going to try and listen to the message and back off from the blame game for a while and just grieve:

(This is reposted from the Cognitive Daily post I referred to earlier- comment #14)

I am a PT Hokie prof, and want to share with all of you what one of our recent alums wrote:

Think of Virginia Tech as one body who just got attacked and we’re lying in the hospital bed. We need to use all the energy of our body to heal our wounds. What does a person go through who has just been maliciously attacked? Shock, vexation, confusion, anger, sadness, grief, disbelief, denial, etc. We’re trying to survive and make sense of what happed and gain clarity and perspective. Many questions are asked and some we will never have the answers to.

Some people are at our bedside asking us “shouldn’t have Tech done this or that? Why didn’t someone do their job?” I hope people are not intentionally trying to cause more distress but we need all white blood cells on the wound, we do not need to be wasting energy dealing with more confusion and second guessing.

We need love, healing, comfort, consolation, forgiveness, and service to each other.

The worst thing we can do as a Hokie Nation is to let the toxicity of the second-guessing and doubt to invade our own body and have our own community turn against itself. In a time like this where community members have confusion, vexation, and anger, it’s easy to mistakenly want to place blame. We cannot blame the administration or ourselves; Virginia Tech did NOT ask for this tragedy nor bring it upon herself, it’s not our fault. I believe our administration and police leadership did the best they could, but that is beside the point. Right now we need to band together and support EVERYONE in our Hokie Nation. Please encourage each other to serve one another and come together.

Right now my Hokie family needs me to be supportive and serve them. I need to support Dr. Steger and the entire leadership and not let anything divide us against one another.

Let’s not be remembered as the massacre university, but the university who embodied her to her motto, Ut Prosim and came together as community. I hope and pray we can serve one another in patience, kindness, goodness, forgiveness, and gentleness in our time of great need and agony.

Please feel free to pass along this message to anyone it might help.

God Bless and Ut Prosim,

Drew Lichtenberger

Virginia Tech, B.S. 2000

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2007 5:08 pm

    Too sad.

    Asher Heimermann

  2. April 19, 2007 7:59 pm

    NBC created this monster and they are trying to create another one by playing his propaganda video over and over. All the victims’ families should join together in a CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT against NBC for wrongful death. You don’t believe it? Well, why did he sent his garbage to NBC? He knew that his propaganda would be shown by them because all he was really doing was mimicking their propaganda anyway. The Left says all us crackers deserve to die for what some moronic morons who lived 200 years ago did, and this guy just took that stupidity it’s illogical conclusion. NBC is Cho’s father and ABC is his mother, and they are proud of their bastard child. Just turn on the TV and you can see their pride and joy.

  3. April 20, 2007 6:22 am

    […] Is it just me or does anyone else think that NBC were wrong to publish the sick portfolio that was sent to them by the Virginia Tech killer in the midst of his killing spree?

    The images and rambling monologue suffused with paranoia have created a chilling lasting portrait of the killer Cho Seung-Hui, that will stain the memory of all who witnessed it for a very long time.

    Does the world need to be haunted by the spectre of this mentally ill individual preparing to kill? Or should we have been protected and not subjected to this?

    Some may argue that we have a choice whether to view the material but actually… we don’t! […]

    For more see VT Killings: Has NBC and the media gone too far this time?

  4. Renn permalink
    April 21, 2007 1:58 pm

    Why did this make national news that was repeated over and over and over but we (we being Americans not the individual you and I) overlook the masscres in other countries? 185 people were killed by a bomb in Baghdad this past week and no one gives a shit. We live priviledged lives. We are fortunate that killing sprees are not an everyday occurance. I am not saying that this is not a sad, shocking event but we forget that people live their lives in fear.

    I am disgusted by the media, by the people who try to have some personal connection to this. I actually heard a co-worker say that her neighbors friend’s daughter goes there. So? My brother graduated from the school of engineering last year-BFD he was not there.

    I feel for the families, friends and staff, I truly do. This was a shocking horrifying event. I am just saddened that Americans respond to this in such a huge way but forget about others so quickly.

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