The Virginia Tech Shootout – A Gruesome Sadness – Lessons to be Learnt

Thousands and thousands across the United States of America stayed glued to their TV sets and yet millions of others across the world read and read whatever articles they could find on the internet and in the newspapers. Now known as the Most Horrific Mass Shooting in the history of the United States , the recent shootout of 2 people, 1 student and 1 Resident Adviser and another shootout 2 hours later killing 31 students and at least 50 others was the news being broadcast on all major news channels across the nation. Never before in the history of the United States , had an college campus killing taken so many lives. 

Today evening, 16th April 2007 4:00 PM , I had been working on my software product development, when my husband, also in the same organization pinged me on our common chat, and asked me if I saw the latest news on Rediff. Wondering what it could be, I casually logged on to the world wide web and what caught my eye was a headline which said ‘No Indian Casualties so far’. One part of my mind was thrown off by the way the news was being handled. Is nationality all we care about? Doesn’t a human life add up to anything? Minutes later, after reading the entire article, I said to myself, ‘ OK Girl, no need to get so worked up, they also have a job to do. Since its a global student campus, its their duty to ensure that Indian parents feel comfortable back home, its but important to ensure peace prevails.’ Reaching home around 6:00 CST, we switched on the idiot box and sat glued to it for almost 2 hrs or so. Hundreds of reports going over and over again on the incidents that had rocked the serenity of the peace loving community. 

Virginia Tech, Blacksburg having been home and secure ground for more than 26000 students, with a huge sprawling campus and high security measures, ones that couldn’t hold their ground now. It was an act of sheer senselessness. It was depressing to read of these mass murders and have people go on and on about them. The magnitude of coverage on this incident was no less than what was done for 9/11. It give me a ‘I wouldn’t term it nice or happy’ but it gave me a sense of satisfaction that the powers-to-be gave human life the importance it deserved. President Bush issued a statement to this effect and the entire cabinet also observed 2 minutes of mourning in the memory of those whose lives were taken in the unfortunate massacre. The media also spoke to FBI killer profilers seeking to know more about the mindset of a psycho would go about on a conscience-less killing rampage like this one. A father from the Columbine tragedy spoke regarding the effect that this would have on parents and siblings for years to come.

It shook me to the core to sit there and listen to him. It took all my nerve to just keep listening to all those sad stories over and over again. As officials and students/parents alike battled out on the biggest question of all : Why was there a 2 hr gap between the killings and despite there having been such a huge gap why wasn’t tragedy averted? Should the police have taken more drastic steps? Why weren’t student intimated in a more serious manner? Why wasn’t campus closed? Should we have seen this coming? I marvel at the fact that despite all this, a blame game hasn’t started. With all honesty, back home, it would have hardly taken minutes for something of this sort to turn into a political drama with mud-slinging in full swing. Finally after a 2 hr recluse from the normal world and getting totally depressed, I decided to take a break from the report-out and diverted my attention to reading news from India . I logged on to and accessed the TimesofIndia e-newspaper online. My husband continued to listen to Virginia Tech on MSNBC and I sneaked a peek once in a while. The news was driving me to depression. 

Life in India seemed ordinary as usual, people having all the time in the world for utter nonsense. The main page showed a huge photo of Richard Gere kissing Shilpa Shetty on her cheek, but I wonder how people in India have absolutely no work and so much time on their hands to rebel and burn posters and start mobs and yell slogans for something as senseless as this. There were reports from the BJP which stated it as a shame for India as such things are against India’s culture and ethics. Lets face it guys, do we really have to waste so much time and energy on such a stupid topic like this? Also, did anyone ever stop to think if taking out rallies and burning effigies were part of India ’s culture or ethics? Yet another article showed the Star TV office being mobbed by some group called the Hindu Rashtriya Sena. At least 40 activists of the Hindu Rashtriya Sena raided the office after the news channel ran a report of a 16-year old girl who eloped with her 23-year old boyfriend. They had different cultural and religious backgrounds and approached the channel for support, reports said. The activists smashed cars and office furniture and caused injuries to a security guard and another person. This kind of news was disgusting me more than anything else. I decided to just skip the main page and move forward.

Finally on the 6th page I found something which set me thinking. More disturbing events. 1 paragraph things, small notes, news hardly deemed important. News Item 1: A father burns alive his son for asking Rs 100. News Item 2: Salesman hangs himself. News Item 3: Property broker murdered News Item 4: Youth strangled. News Item 5: Passenger falls, bus runs him over. Buried somewhere deep within the paper and its content, 5 people had died, different places, different circumstances. I am sorry I digress from the incident I started off with, the Virginia Tech story. 

But I couldnt help notice the differences. I love my county and am proud of being an Indian. I would be ready to defend her whenever the need be. Yet, in the light of all this, one cant help but ask the question. Isn’t it time we started giving more importance and value to a human life? How soon before we completely lose all sanity? Its time to think and choose. What needs looking into? Whats more important? 50 years from now, what would you rather talk about with your grandchildren when you tell them of ‘In those days’ Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty? The Star News Channel supporting the eloped? Or The Value of Human Life? 

To those who feel that I have digressed and tried to reduce the impact of the shootout: I apologize I did get diverted, but the intent is not to downsize the importance of what happened, but an understanding and realization that we as Indians need to face. Its something we need to learn and learn quick, before we lose touch with all humanity. My heart goes out to the ones affected by the mass murders and my deepest heartfelt condolences to the survivors of the ones who lost their lives. May their souls rest in peace, may no more innocents have to face such an ordeal again. May peace reign the world. Amen.

Postscript: 5 and a half years since, why do we still face the same predicament again? Read more here.
I would love to hear your views!