Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lockdown at St. Edwards in Austin

News just in reporting that a bomb threat was found in a restroom at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas.

The school has been locked down, classes cancelled through at least six this evening, and road have been blocked off around the school. Students already in school are gathering on the soccer field and students not on campus are being asked to not report to class. Some dorm buildings have been cleared and students are being allowed to return to those buildings.

I have to believe this is a sick joke, but the university, rightfully so, is not taking any chances. This is reported as a non-specific note, meaning apparently that no specific site was targeted in the note.

I don't know who would play a sick joke like this after the tragedy suffered at Virginia Tech yesterday, but the person should be ashamed of themselves. The nation is already on edge and this does nothing more than add to the stress suffered by parents, students, faculty, administration, and the rest of the country.

Assuming this is a "joke", the person or persons responsible need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Maybe speaking to the parents, family and friends of those who lost their lives yesterday would convince this "jokester" that this is not the time for stupid, juvenile, sick pranks such as this.

In this day and age of terrorism and tragedy, this is not the time for this kind of "humor".
Virginia Tech Shootings

There is a lot of speculation that VT police and administration didn't do enough to notify students that there was a shooting in East Ambler Johnson residence Hall and that better notification may have saved lives in the later shooting at Norris Hall.

It's possible, but look at this: after the shooting at East AJ occurred, a "person of interest" had been detained. The police had no reason to think that another shooting was about to occur. Who could possibly have expected that a bloodbath was about to occur in a building on the other side of the campus? That would suppose that someone had either knowledge that the shooter was still loose on campus or that someone was psychic.

I can't blame the police, campus or state police. I can't blame the university administration either. They thought the incident was over and had no way of knowing that the carnage was about to begin.

Put yourself in the place of the police and administration. Can you honestly say that you would have done anything differently? I can't.

People want to be able to blame someone, to point fingers and say, "You're responsible for this and here's why...." Sorry, but this is a tragedy that lies at the feet of one person: Cho Seung-hui. The shooter.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Purple Heart Vets

After my husband died, I was considering what to do with his '88 Caravan. It needs a lot of work before it's even driveable, and it's pretty rusty. I thought I would have to have it towed away for junk - and pay for the tow.

My friend Tina thought her brother might be able to fix it up. As good a friend as Tina has been to me over the years, I was going to give it to her. Well, turned out her brother didn't want it after all. Can't really blame him; he needed something that was driveable now, not a couple of weeks or months down the road.

Anyway, one day I was out in my van and heard an ad for Purple Heart Vets. They'll take any vehicle - driveable or not. Then, a few days later, there was a message on my voice mail from....guess who? You got it. Purple Heart Vets. It was a recorded sales pitch, but it said the same thing I remembered from the radio ad.

So once I got the van titled over to me, I found PHV on the internet and submitted a form to donate the van. Didn't hear anything for a couple of weeks, so I sent an email saying that I would like to donate this van, yada, yada, yada, but hadn't heard anything. Still hadn't heard anything today, so had decided to call them tomorrow.

A few minutes ago I got a call from a guy saying he was from PHV and could he get to my place from ---- Street. I said yes, but I hoped he wasn't planning on picking up the van today. He said, well, that was the idea - or words to that effect. I told him I want to donate the van, but wasn't ready to have it picked up yet, that I was expecting a phone call letting me know when they would have it picked up. His suggestion was to call them and let them know when I was ready.

While I still want to donate the van to PHV, I admit I was a bit annoyed to get a pick up call with no warning whatsoever. So, since it's after hours, I sent an email to PHV asking pretty much, what the????

I'll clean out the van tomorrow and find the keys...I hope. I have a fistful of keys and think I saw the Caravan keys among them, but considering there were keys for a Ford that I know belonged to no car my husband had for at least 10 years, I'm not sure what I'll find....or not find.
Deadliest Mass Shooting in US History

A few past shootings:

Up until Monday, the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history was a rampage that took place in 1966 at the University of Texas at Austin, where Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower and opened fire with a rifle from the 28th-floor observation deck. He killed 16 people before he was shot to death by police.

The massacre Monday took place almost eight years to the day after the Columbine High bloodbath near Littleton, Colo. On April 20, 1999, two teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history was in Killeen, Texas, in 1991, when George Hennard drove his pickup into a Luby's Cafeteria and shot 23 people to death, then himself.
Update on Virginia Tech Shooting

Thirty-two are now reported dead, but the number may rise as there are still many injured in local hospital(s).

The gunman is reported to be an Asian male in his 20's. He was reported to be heavily armed. It's unclear at this time whether he killed himself, was killed by the police, or committed "suicide by police." It's not known if he was a student and his name has not been released.

At least one professor may be among the dead. Victims may include faculity.

Resident assistant reported among the victims at Norris Hall.

Bomb threats closed campus buildings at the beginnng of the month and again last week. There is no connection at this time to today's events.

Apparently two hours separated the shootings at Ambler Johnson Hall and Norris Hall. The first shooting occurred at approximately 715 am at Ambler Johnson. The shootings at Norris Hall occurred after 900 am. It's unknown at this time what the shooter was doing or where he was during this time period.

This has now been declared the worst mass murder in US history.
Virginia Tech Notification System

I've been hearing since the news broke on the Virginia Tech shootings that Virginia Tech notified it's students by email of the situation as it unfolded. A Resident Assistant apparently also went door to door in at least one of the dormitory buildings to alert students not to leave their rooms. Nothing will take the place of verbal one-to-one communication, but computers and the Internet can be used to bridge the gap of distance and numbers of people.

Another good reason to have high tech available is that students could let their families know that they are safe. That relieves the parents of worry about their children and keeps people away from the school. At a time like this, the fewer "outsiders" around the better to keep control of the campus. If I had a child at VT, and couldn't get hold of my kid, I'd be at the gates as soon as I could. Any parent would want to know that their child is safe. Email is a good way of letting friends and family know that they are safe.

Cell phones are another nearly indispensable item to have. VT students away from their dorm rooms, or even in their dorms, could let their friends and family know that they were okay quickly. Using cell phones can relieve the stress and worry of friends and family wanting to know about students in the danger zone. The bad side of cell phones is when a call isn't answered. One could only begin to assume to worst.

Until recently, I was on the fence as to whether it was really necessary for middle and high school students to have cell phones. I've now come to think that it's a necessity. We had a school bus accident here a year or so ago. The kids were able to call their parents and let them know about the accident and that the child was not injured. EMS and police were on the scene within minutes. Parents arrived and took their children home, to school, or to a doctor. The parents knew almost immediately that their child was fine and could take action without being scared about what they would find when notified by school authorities.

Kids are also able to get help when their personal safety is compromised when they have cell phones. When Clay Moore was kidnapped here a few weeks ago, law enforcement was notified almost immediately. There was little delay in getting LE out looking for the suspect.

I'm becoming more and more tech savvy every day and think that the administration using email to communicate with students is a good idea. This is a great idea for "ordinary" events. Not so great for notification of serious situations as happened today, but still, it may have saved lives by keeping students in their rooms and not coming into contact with the shooter.

Perhaps instead of putting money into football stadiums we need to have electronic news feeds on buildings. I think these news feeds are still in use in New York - Times Square comes to mind. Perhaps TV monitors near main doors. Not necessarily to alert students of shootings, but for general purpose as well. Class cancellation, campus events, I think you can think of all kinds of things that could be broadcast.

I've thought a couple of times in my work that a news feed type of thing would be good. It's sometimes very hard to be heard over room intercoms or a PA system. If I could type the information I want to get across and have it broadcast, I could get a response faster than yelling over the intercom and hoping I can catch someone's attention.
Shootings on Virginia Tech Campus

Yet another school shooting, this time at Virginia Tech. At least twenty dead, numerous wounded and a lot of scared students, parents, faculty and staff.

A shooter entered two buildings and shot at least one person in the first building, then apparently, the remainder of the shootings happened in the second building. Students are reported to have been lined up in a classroom and shot. That's still speculation as far as I know. Other students were apparently injured when they jumped out windows to get away from the shootings. Reports are that there was only one shooter.

Police are still sorting out the reasons why this happened. One student reporting via phone to Fox News says he heard that the shooter was looking for a girl. Still speculative, but let's go with that theory for lack of another reason. Should other reasons come up, we'll look at those.

At first glance, this looks like a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship that went awry and the boy decided that if he couldn't have her, no one would. Or maybe that if he could just make her listen to him, he could change her mind. Change her mind at gunpoint. Yeah, that would work for me.

Why is it that our young people today seem to think they can get someone to pay attention to them at gunpoint, or by killing people? Personally, if anyone I knew tried to get my attention by killing people, sure, that would get my attention, but not in the way they would want. I would be horrified that this person could think that I would admire what he did "for me".

I am not a gun control proponent, although situations like this could make me think it wouldn't be a bad idea. However, I also realize that what the NRA and it's advocates say, that if you take away guns, then only the bad guys can get guns. And it's true, the "good guys" need to have protection from the bad guys who will get guns in any way possible. It creates an underground black market where anyone can get a gun who has the know-how to get them.

Until a few weeks ago, I had three handguns, two rifles and a shotgun in my house. My husband brought them home from his father's house when his stepmother didn't want them in their house. I wasn't thrilled at having them here. I'm not versed in firearms, and I know it was years since my husband had handled them. I decided that if they were going to be in the house, we would both take courses to be able to use them properly. Well, my husband passed away and I never got around to taking the courses. My in-laws moved to the country a few months ago. When my father-in-law asked if he could have them back, I was more than happy to return them to him.

No, I will never be a proponent of gun control. I might not want guns in my house right now, but there might be a time when I do want that kind of protection. If and when that time comes, I don't want to be denied the right the Constitution guarantees me to bear arms and I don't want someone with a legitimate reason to have a weapon be denied.

I don't think I'm wrong in asking that those who do have guns know how to use them, that the weapons are registered so that if they are stolen, law enforcement has a way of establishing ownership, and that they are properly stored when not in use to keep the weapons from those who have no business using them.

Will keeping weapons locked up stop people from getting to them who shouldn't have them? I wish I could say yes, but you and I both know tragedies will continue to happen. It's happened too many times to believe that.

Police are now reporting 32 dead. The "good" news is that the shooter is also dead. That's one bullet that wasn't wasted. Sorry, I can't feel badly except that this is another life ended too soon. And I feel badly for the shooter's friends and family. I can't waste a tear for the shooter, but for those he killed, his friends and family, yes, I will pray for and I will mourn.