The country is in shock today as one (or possibly two) shootings occurred today on the campus of Virginia Tech. As some of you know, I am an alumnus of VA Tech.
This sort of thing shouldn’t happen anywhere, but it seems especially out of place on the pristine campus in Blacksburg.
I want to give you a feeling of the campus and the history of violence (or lack there-of). VA Tech is a *huge* campus. 2600 acres. The University of Texas, for example, is 40 acres. There is a chunk of grass called the drill field you may hear about. That field in the middle of the main part of campus is something like 10 or 11 acres. It can take literally 25 to 30 minutes to walk/jog from one corner of the academic buildings to the other corner.
There was some talk about locking down the campus. They did some of that today. It was a quite possibly too late an action; but also a hugely challenging one. I have not been on that campus in 6 or 7 years and I could probably slip though any sort of road block system they have. If it turns out to be just the one gunman he could have easily evaded police. I don’t fault the campus or local police response very much. They responded to the shooting in Norris hall extremely quick but unfortunately not quick enough to save 30 innocent people.
Past crime. There have been only two fairly major incidents that I can recall. One was last fall when a mental patient broke free shot a hospital worker and was using the town to escape. It did not involve any students, faculty, or staff directly but it certainly affects the town because of the close proximity of downtown to campus (one block in places). The other was when I was there in fall of 1997. A few locals got into it with a drunk wedding party at a bar called Arnold’s (it changed names the next year). Shots were fired in the bar and twin brothers Terry and Kerry Scales were arrested for capital murder. I had a friend Megan who worked at that particular bar and served the victim his last beer.
Blacksburg was a fairly quiet college town in my experience. I was only at a few parties where the cops were called and fist fights were rare. It is beautiful country with rivers and hike/bike trails very near town. It is self contained, the closest “major” city is Roanoke 40 minutes away- and nothing about Roanoke is major. I sometimes miss my time there and long for the warm lazy summers.
To anyone who reads this- please don’t take the actions of a madman as a sign that the ‘burg is a crumbling mecca of crime. It certainly is not.
My thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and their family’s from today. They are going to need strength to overcome. Go Hokies!