Mourning in America

A Virginia State Trooper walked out of Norris Hall at Virginia Tech Monday and doubled over, puking out his breakfast. A brisk wind, gusting at times to 50 miles per hour, blew parts of the retch back onto his otherwise spotless blue and grey uniform.

A Montgomery County sheriff's deputy, outfitted in mostly-new special weapons and tactics gear, sat at the back of his department's SWAT van and sobbed.

"I've never seen anything like it," he said. "Never."

Nobody had – not veteran cops, not rookies not rescue squad workers, not journalists on the scene.

The trail of carnage left by a deranged semi-automatic pistol toting South Korean English major at Virginia Tech left everyone in a state of shock.

The media calls it as massacre. It's more than that. It's madness.

We may or may not ever know what triggered Cho Seung-Hui to go on a killing spree that left 32 dead before he took his own life. How can we? Insanity, whether temporary or permanent, is difficult to explain.

Over the years I've watched Virginia Tech grow from a sleepy land-grant agricultural college into Virginia's largest university with a nationally-recognized engineering school and dreams of becoming a national college football powerhouse.

As a high school student in an adjacent county in the early 1960s I contemplated attending Tech (or VPI as it was known in those days). I opted instead for the then Roanoke campus of the University of Virginia so I could work as a reporter at The Roanoke Times.

Many of my high school friends attended Tech. Some of those same friends have children and grandchildren among the 26,000 students. Thankfully, none of their offspring were among the dead or wounded.

I've witnessed and been a part of too much death in my lifetime. I have killed for my country without fully understanding why. I have photographed death and watched too many people die through my camera lens.

Prolonged exposure to death leaves too many of us callous towards the violence and carnage. I became hardened by constant exposure to death but never fully immune: Too many nightmares, too many sleepless nights.

When I retired and returned to my boyhood home in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia, I thought I had left that world behind. There hasn't been a murder in my sleepy county for more than a decade.

But civilization and the uncivilized behavior it spawns encroach daily on our tranquil mountains. Nearby Roanoke has one of the highest crime rates in Virginia. The Tech campus sits just 35 minutes away in rapidly-growing Montgomery County, part of an increasingly urban New River Valley.

Earlier this year, our sheriff's department asked the board of supervisors for money to set up a "school interdiction" team complete with SWAT team and a Marine-trained sniper.

"I hope it never happens here," Sheriff Shannon Zeman told me. "But if it does I want to be prepared to go in and take out the threat."

Last fall, an escaped prisoner killed a security guard at a Montgomery County hospital and then a cop on the Tech campus. We held our breath and then breathed a sigh of relief when police captured him.

When the first reports of a shooting at a dorm surfaced Monday morning, we said "oh no, not again." As details emerged, we realized this was like nothing anyone had seen before. Not here.

Those who died must be mourned. Those whose heroic acts saved the lives of others must be remembered and honored.

Unfortunately, those who exploit tragedy in order to promote political agendas show their true colors at this time with callous disregard for simple human decency.

There will be time to deal with such opportunists.

Not now.

Now is a time for mourning.


  1. Carl Nemo

    I offer my condolences to the families of the fallen and also to you to Doug since this is so close to home and in area that you thought would be your peaceful retirement refuge. It will take many years for the trauma associated with this mega-rampage to even begin to heal.

    Many people don’t realize it but our government has operatives imbedded in most if not all major and minor American universities. People should remember that universities and their students are the first targeted when there’s a regime change in a nation. This could be due to civil war, a coup, or they even being a hotbed of dissension and opposition to government polices. It was this way during the Nam era. Government agencies were surveilling the universities intensely looking for seeds of discontent. HUMINT specialists are expert at identifying free-thinkers, radicals, especially student leaders and assuredly “wackos”.

    Many people think “mind control” is something that’s only found in the purview of science fiction etc., not so! There are actual patents for achieving mind control and “thought-seeding” via microwaves. When microwaves cross space uninterrupted by the medium they can vibrate water molecules in organic structures; i.e. including the human brain. It’s the same process used for heating food in your microwave oven. If these same microwaves are modulated with a baseband audio signal it’s possible for seeded thoughts, possibly irritating, enraging and incessant to be heard within the inner ear or induced into the brain stem and then to the cortex for processing. The transmitter could be space based, tower based, or even done with a handheld unit. So if a contingent of Manchurian; i.e., “Red Queen” candidates are available nationwide then it’s just a matter of pushing a button and targeting these individuals with incessant microwave induced subliminal attacks that would trigger them to act.

    The ability to do this would be great for distractive purposes relative to re-directing people’s thoughts from the business of government or whatever is at hand. Case in point. Bushco has a lot on his plate right now. There’s too many to enumerate in this article, but this horrible public crime has distrated us from the business of government. Our leaders were meeting with Bush to discuss a compromise on the Iraq legislation which isn’t going too well for Bushco. The Gonzales hearing have been delayed indefinitely and I’m sure alot of other pressing government business that was on the front burner has been moved to the back. Of course it doesn’t make the issues go away, but delaying action on many of these has a tendency to defuse their urgency and import. This tragedy is surely distractive.

    The perpetrator of this crime had a lengthy track record of writing extremely violent English papers etc. His professors were concerned with their violent content, but no one seriously confronted him. I find it amazing that this guy made to senior level status and no one, not even his student associates finally went to either campus authorities or even the police to discuss what they were witnessing.

    Now a HUMINT specialist would have caught wind of this guy. They are trained to be observant and look for “marks” for exploitation purposes etc. He might have ended up on the list of those available for microwave “imprinting”. He may have never been called upon to perform, but he’s inplace to do so if necessary. So the word goes out for “Red Queen” agent activation via bursts of 100mhz microwaves with relentless, repetitive irritation concerning those issues that would cause this character to “rage” along with an “ordered” solution to his problems. Even if this were not done in his case, I do find this mega tragedy quite close to the nation’s capitol.

    I’ll provide some links so folks can steep themselves in this technology. The best countermeasure is to wear “foil hat”… ; ) Folks are welcome to diss my ideas, but you do so at your own risk. We don’t have to worry about well balanced folks, but those such as this perpetrator who are walking in the grayly lit world of the manic-depressive, the schizophrenic, or quite possibly a blend of both.

  2. SEAL

    While this crazed young man killed 32 people in Virginia, several crazed young men killed 233 people in Iraq. But we don’t light candles, have mass prayers, and morn them, do we?

  3. Carl Nemo

    Right on…SEAL! I’ll cut our people a bit of slack since they are contaminated by the Big BX syndrome; i.e., America being one big Disneyland type shopping mall from coast to coast. The brutal reality of a third world combat zone means nothing to them until combat level violence strikes on the back porch. Bushco is no doubt exploiting this tragedy in the sense it is a distraction for the grevious, nation-destroying scandals that have been relentlessly uncovered since 9/11 with no resolution in sight. I hope this backfires on them with people waking up to what the reality of “high-order” violence means then maybe they’l finally say enough bloodshed is enough albeit in Mayberry vs. Bagdad. This past six years under Bushco has been nothing but endless “bad news”. It’s so much bad news that one has to stop and think is this simply coincidence or by design? I believe it to be the latter excluding this school mayhem, but who knows, predicated on my mind control article? In these times the best motto is “trust no one”…!

  4. SEAL

    What occured at Virginia Tech – “the worst in our modern history” is a minimum every day occurance in Iraq. 32 is a low number for them. Their daily disasters run 50 – 100 – 150 or more at a time. Those mourners should try to imagine having to face that every damn day of their life for FOUR YEARS. Running and dodging and hiding in doorways just to get to class every day because you don’t know when or where or what or who it will be coming from. Gunfire? A bomb? A chemical? You trust no one. Forget having a social life. Can’t risk having a party. It may be bombed. Every car may be a bomb.

    The people of this nation claim to be so compassionate and caring. We give millions of dollars in aid to countries with monstrous health problems like AIDS and feel so good about ourselves. But that’s all it is. A feel good cop out. An excuse to cover the fact that we really don’t give a shit. It’s over there and “those people” don’t amount to much anyway. Look at the way they live. And they are so dumb and dirty.

    What really makes it all so hypocrital is, at the same time we are killing thousands of people in one of the countries for profit. The longer we continue to kill them the more money some of our people make. The rest of us spend billions to kill these people. But we feel good about the few million we sent to somewhere Africa to buy drugs that make no real difference due to the violence and the genocide killing that is going on all around them.

    So, go ahead and cry and show how sad you are for those 32 that died but ignore the tens of thousand YOU are killing. They’re only a bunch of “those people” and they are over there. Continue to support the blood thirsty maniacs that are robbing you in order to continue to kill kill kill in your name.

  5. Carl Nemo

    Wow SEAL…truly a smoking indictment concerning how things are in our times…! You are needless to say on-the-mark, but all it does is make the so-called “good people” squirm. They shake it off and look upon people like ourselves as cassandras with predictions of little to no merit. They live in their billy-bob, NASCAR, AmeriKa is the bestest and the baddest paradigm. “We don’t take s***t off no one and surely not them thar ragheads”…:)) Soon they’l be getting the bill for their brain-dead loyalty to a failed paradigm when a loaf of white bread costs $10 and a Honda Civic costs 50g’s or more…! I see little hope for a turnaround in our national policies much less how the American people view the world. As they say this train ain’t stoppin’ til it crashes.

  6. Steve Horn

    Sandy, it used to be easy. When I was a kid, somebody picked on you, you beat ’em up (or tried to!) – either way you gained respect. Now we can’t have that – we can’t even play dodgeball because “someones feelings might get hurt” – well – we’re seeing the result of molly-coddling kids – at Columbine and now at VT. With no way to stand up for themselves, internalizing their frustrations, eventually they break, and whom do they take their frustrations out upon? Their peers – naturally – that great social network that’d marginalized them. And not having the skills to deal with them in a rational way, they kill them, because then they know they’ll NEVER have to deal with them again.
    Would you rather be called to the middle school and told your kid was caught fighting or to the deans office to be told your child had killed himself and 32 others?
    I’m not advocating a baby boxing league – but we need to teach our children to be advocates for themselves, to stand up for what they believe, to think for themselves.
    You don’t do that by molly-coddling –
    Of course, there’s a segment of the population trying to turn us from people to sheeple – who love it if we can’t stand up for ourselves – but – we’ll get them out of office in 2008!

  7. Sandy Price

    This seems to be the reason Columbine was attacked. Kids being picked on and misunderstood and rejected.

    My best friend just took her grandson up to Utah for a corrective boot camp to save his life! He was heading for trouble and she would not allow it. She may have actually saved other’s lives by standing up for her grandson. She has custody of him due to some tragic circumstances and she did the only thing she could do. She has my support all the way.

    This problem could be found in any of our homes. She was brave and stood up to the rest of her family.

  8. pollchecker

    I am not an NRA fanatic. I don’t own a gun and doubt I ever will.

    But I know one thing. Guns don’t kill people! PEOPLE kill people.

    Now everyone will once again go on a rampage about Gun Control.

    They don’t get it. It’s NOT THE GUNS!

    We have no Mental Health policy in the country.

    We don’t like to talk about it.

    We treat people with mental illnesses as if they were damaged or weak.

    We don’t treat them like people.

    In fact we ignore people. Especially troubled people or people different from the rest of us.


    For years, I worked hard to get help for my son. Without money or health insurance, it was futile!

    Someone once asked me, why should my tax money pay to help your kid.

    My answer was “Because it’s cheaper to help him NOW” than it will be to pay for his incarceration a decade or two from now.

    I am a hard headed, determined woman. I would not give up until I got my son help.

    I could not ignore the signs. I could not live with myself if he killed someone and I could have done something, anything to prevent it.

    It wasn’t easy. In fact it was the hardest thing I ever had to do.

    But I can understand why so many parents just give up. THEY DO YOU KNOW!


    So what do we do with the Mentally Ill?

    We let them wander the streets. We put them in jails. We walk past them and ignore them until they break down and harm someone!

    There are people crying out for help with no place to go and no one to listen.

    They go out and buy street drugs or use alcohol to self-medicate because they can’t get the help or afford the expensive psycho-active drugs.

    They go out and buy a gun without any trouble because they don’t have any criminal background. Perhaps they plan on killing themselves.

    But sometimes they chose otherwise and then it becomes a public spectacle that answers no questions nor solves the issue at hand.

    When will we learn? When will we wake up and start caring about our fellow man?

    We say to ourselves, it’s not our problem. But it is! Everytime some mentally ill person commits a crime, it is our problem.

    Because as tax payers we pay the bill for the crime, the trial and the incareration.

    THIS ALL CAN BE STOPPED! The question is do we have the will to stop it?

    Do we care enough to change the conversation. I repeat…..Guns don’t kill people. PEOPLE KILL!

    Let us not waste our time arguing about the guns. Let’s stop this madness.

    Let’s require that any discussion of National Health issues MUST INCLUDE a dialog about Mental Health issues.

    We can change this! It just takes the will! The question is do we have it? Or will we continue as we have in the past to tap dance around the issue and ignore the people crying out for help?

    Or children’s lives depend on US stepping up!

  9. jarrodlombardo

    Thank you. When I heard about the shooting, my reaction wasn’t to mourn for people I don’t know, but to become incensed at the gun control “solutions” that would be coming in reaction. People don’t really care about each other. Solving problems at their root doesn’t give the instant gratification people have come to expect. We need to cure the disease, not just some of the symptoms.


  10. mcg907

    The people who really need to focus on what happened with the shooter at VT are the police, the mental health community and the university professionals. Discussing the ins and outs of a budding psychotic doesn’t do more than encourage other budding psychotics to be equally outrageous.

    Today my alma mater had large cards up in the foyer encouraging everyone at the law school to sign them. The student body will send them to the students at Virginia Tech. There were blessings and sorrow, but not one word about gun control. What we need to do is focus on the people left behind and celebrate the lives that were, sadly, cut too short.

    The people I’d most like to see involved right now would be the Amish families who lost children in equally tragic circumstances. They were able to rise above the trauma in ways that could be helpful in the present circumstances.

    I hold in memory most particularly Prof. Liviu Librescu, the holocaust survivor who sacrificed his life for the lives of his students. May his name long be remembered as a true hero.

    – Slithy
    Never take a person’s dignity: it is worth everything to them, and nothing to you. ~ Frank Barron

  11. Sandy Price

    for sharing your story with us at CHB. We all have known and loved kids and adults who are afflicted with a mental illness and could not find help. Do we even know how to help?

  12. pollchecker

    A — talk about the Real problem. The guns are not the problem. The people using the guns are the problem. As long as we don’t talk about Mental Health issues, we cannot overcome the stigma that has been attached to it over the centuries. Mentally Ill people are Ill, not damaged. Which means they can be treated, they can be healed. They shouldn’t be treated like garbage. And believe me, they are. Check the homeless shelters and the prisons. They are full of mentally ill.

    B — reach out to people. All of these shooters have been angry lonely people. In over a century on this planet, one thing I know is the kindness does eventually rule! But it’s not always easy. Sometimes it takes repeated kindness by many people.

    I don’t understand why the professor who tried to get this student counseling stopped short of contacting his parents. I sure would want to know if my son was writing such violent stuff. I don’t understand why the police didn’t contact the student’s family. I sure would want to know if he was harassing other students.

    So perhaps — C should be — pay attention! Don’t be so quick to make assumptions or pass judgements. If you see a problem, don’t blow it off because its none of your business. Reach out. Follow through. CARE before its too late!

    The reason I succeeded is because I would not give into the system that seemed stacked against me. I fought and because I fought, I actually made progress. But most parents I encontered didn’t have a clue where to go, what to do and they are told they have no options which often is the case. It’s easier to just give up even though its your own child.

    No we can’t sit by another day and feel sorry about this. We should be outraged because this didn’t have to happen. It wasn’t the school’s fault. It wasn’t the parent’s fault. It wasn’t even the killer’s fault. It was SOCIETY’S fault for being so busy to care about this issue until its too late and people are dead!

    I know someone will comment about bearing responsibility. If we as a society, don’t step up, and get involved by changing the dialogue in this country, then it is our responsibility every time a thing like this happens.

  13. paintedhandfarm

    Everyone is screaming gun control and campus security, but the warning signs were all there, professors tried to do something about it, yet others balked. I don’t understand why our society is so opposed to preventative actions. This week, my daughter tried to present a visual statistic at her high school for Sexual Violence Awareness Month. She got permission from the school, she had support from the state-wide coalition against rape who provided all sorts of cool handouts and trinkets for the kids, she was allowed to have an information table set up at lunch for two days, but when it came time to post the life-sized paper silhouettes representing the number of boys and girls from the high school population (nearly 400)that statistically could be victims of sexual violence prior to their 18th birthday, several teachers and parents threw such a fit because they felt that it was inappropriate and would be too upsetting. WAKE UP!! Violence has invaded our homes, our schools, our worksplaces, but when it comes to preventative measures no one wants to talk about it. The health teacher at school will talk about AIDS, safe sex, STDs, smoking, drugs and alcohol but refuses to touch child abuse or rape. There have already been news reports that Cho argued with his girlfriend, took inappropriate digital pictures of students under the desk and stalked girls both in person and online. Sticking our heads in the sand because violence, especially sexual violence, is just “too upsetting” or “too controversial” has got to stop.

  14. Steve Horn

    The young man who stole the futures from his fellow students was described as a loner, he seems to have been a social mis-fit, and from the behavior that’s been reported from fellow students, he was screaming out for help, but no help came (at least none that he was willing to accept).
    I’d be willing to bet that others viewed him as weak – perhaps picked on him – made fun of him – wondered why he didn’t interact like everyone else. I’d be willing to bet that, when he cracked, when he took the first life in the dorm, he felt a sensation of power, perhaps for the first time in his young life, a feeling that you may laugh at me, but I’m in control now. Apparently like heroin, this rush took over his life. It’s been reported that he was laughing towards the end, that he was fully in the grip of some manic episode, that the ultimate manifestation of his rage, perhaps something he’d been holding inside and not discussing with anyone for years, drove him to take retribution on those who had been his tormentors (perhaps projecting the faces of his real tormentors onto the innocent while he killed – we’ll never know).
    This isn’t a failure of gun control, it’s not a failure of an individual to not be able to “buck up” and take the pressure, it’s a failure of society, the American society, this acclaimed “compassionate conservative” society, to deal with the health issues of those who comprise it.
    Mental illness is no different than any other disease, it can be identified and treated, yet in America we view the mentally ill as being weak. We used to view alcoholics and drug abusers in that light, but through AA and other groups we’ve learned that those views were wrong, and, in general, we’ve grown beyond it.
    Yet state hospitals are closed, patients can’t afford their medications, can’t afford the health professionals they need, they’re left on skid row or in boarding houses, or in university settings, or in the office or shop floor. They’re told that they’re weak, they’re told that they’re different, and they’re not helped.
    Would we look at a cancer patient and tell them “come on, you can get over it, be tough” ? Of course not –
    Perhaps this tragedy will lead to reform, perhaps health will become a priority in this nation of ours (physical and mental – doesn’t really matter), perhaps this tragedy will lead to a national health care system which is inclusive of everyone in this great nation of ours, be they healthy or sick, wealthy or poor, wise or intellectually uninspired, but I doubt it.
    We’ll get into a national debate over gun ownership, campus police forces will be beefed up, millions will be spent on security measures that really won’t do squat, we’ll feel somehow “better” about ourselves, but we will have done nothing to stop the next tragedy. The mentally ill will still be marginalized and told to be strong.
    I mourn the loss of life at VT, but on a greater scale I mourn our nation becomming the crass, non-inclusive bit of real estate that it has, where the almighty dollar is the “God” to which we pray, and where the loss of life at VT and elsewhere can be justified on the balance sheet of our national health care debate, because it’d just “cost” far to much for us to have such a program.
    What dollar amount can you place on the lives, futures, families and innocense lost on the campus of VT?



  15. Sandy Price

    You are right. When I was in 3rd grade, I beat the hell out of a classmate who was rude and tried to take my bicycle. My grandmother was horrified that I did that; but amazed I could do it. The kid was big boy and a bully and I was a skinny weak looking girl. Now I use my typewriter to beat people up.

    I never got a call on my own kids and I guess I was lucky. My kids went to Berkeley where they were terrified to even be there.

  16. anthny

    By first instinct to this tragdy was another Manchurain Candidate. Then I heard the man was N. Korea, which was wrong.
    Then I heard Gonzale going before Congress was cancelled indefinately.
    The same old MSM spouting the lone gunnman, the man was a loner, the man wrote plays about killing.
    They found the receipt for the gun in a knapsack.
    These are familiar sound bites from the Kennedy Assassination, JFK, Martin Luther King, and Reagan.
    To John Lennon, and Malcom X.
    Are we living in a stable society? No, they the people in charge want us to kill each other. Do they want gun control? Yes the people in charge cannot fully take over this country with guns in the hands of the people.
    Did George Bush sign a law stating that citizens cannot sue gun companies for loss of life.
    This happened in New Orleans when police and first responders were trying to sue gun companies for hospital stays.
    Bush was right there along with that great democrate Harry Reid, they have been paid off by the gun lobbies to stop such laws from going into effect.
    What a Great Country We Had………Here’s how Cho got his guns. It’s a story you won’t hear on CNN. It
    begins with something known as, The Iron Pipeline. At one end of the
    Pipeline are states like Alabama where gun laws are loosey-goosey. Gun
    makers including Glock stuff the ‘Bama end of the pipe with far more guns
    than can ever be bought legally in that state, knowing full well that the
    guns will be illegally shipped up the pipeline into states where gun
    laws are tougher. Virginia law prevents “gun-trafficking”; in Alabama,
    they could care less.
    ……..From Greg Palast’s Book Armed Mad House