See You In Hell!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bad Deja Vu

On Friday, November 1, 1991, I was living in Iowa City, IA, working at my first official post-college Architecture job.

Earlier that morning, a friend of mine & I had attempted to drive up to Fargo with plans of seeing the Gear Daddies perform, but after driving for less that an hour, we realized that the ice storm that had been slowly making its way across Iowa was insurmountable. We headed back. And we went back to work.

Sometime after 3:00, the mid-afternoon doldrums set in, and I left the office and scurried across the pedestrian mall to a nearby coffee shop for an infusion of caffeine. Now, anyone who knows Iowa City knows that the downtown and the University of Iowa blend together, blurring all distinction between University and City. In fact, just 1 block away from the coffee shop where I was eagerly watching a barista make my nonfat triple shot mocha, was a cluster of University buildings that I walked by nearly every day on my way to work. Lecture halls, I think they were. I couldn't be sure, since my view of Iowa City was from the eyes of a (first-time) young professional taxpayer, and not a student.

Anyway, after pausing for awhile to chat with a coworker who was also tending to his mid-afternoon work lull, I decided to make my way, jacket-less, across the cold, windy pedestrian mall back to the office. I moved quickly, cradling what was left of my warm coffee between my cold hands. But things outside seemed different. There was almost no one around, and there were police sirens in the distance. The tension in the air was palpable, and something seemed, well, awry. I spun around, and ended up facing the direction of the university buildings. Through the tiny snowflakes that had just began to swirl crazily around, I could see a couple of people, also coatless, running to the west. Perhaps they too were also going to get some coffee. Then I scurried back into the warmth of my office.

An hour or so later we found out. At around 3:30, Gang Lu, a U of I graduate student, had shot six people not two blocks from our office. Four of the victims were professors & administrators with whom Lu had grievances, one was a fellow PhD student, and one was a young secretary in the office of academic affairs. Five of the six died, and the lone survivor (the secretary) was rendered a quadriplegic. Then Lu turned the gun on himself.

I just wish, since Lu was obviously planning on killing himself anyway, he could have done that part first.


Blogger dawn said...

I had the exact same deja vu, Jen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 at 10:07:00 AM PDT

Anonymous Jurgen Nation said...

You retold a horrible memorably so beautifully - is that possible? I think it's the college thing for me, I don't know. I just think of how happy I was in college, fresh-faced and excited and then I think of those kids. It's an unfortunate and uncomfortable juxtaposition -- remembering lecture halls and the quietness of lecture and studying, the way you could lose yourself in learning, and then thinking of the chain, the gun, the terror. I can't digest that. They all hurt, no doubt, but this one has really wrecked me. College is my church. I cannot even think of it.

I wish this piece of shit would have done himself first and rid the world of his bile. I'm watching the videos now - every hair on my body is prickled. That fucker. That motherfucking fucker.

I'm so angry.

PS: Can I just tell you how much I love when you go full bore and write? You can write your ass off and I love when you go long.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 at 7:20:00 PM PDT

Anonymous Jurgen Nation said...

Sorry: "memory."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 at 7:21:00 PM PDT

Blogger kari said...

as a parent, i cannot even fathom having a child in that situation. school -- even college -- is supposed to be one of those safe places. but i know that we lost that a long time ago.

Thursday, April 19, 2007 at 2:54:00 AM PDT

Blogger Jege (Jen) said...

College was my church too. The one place in the world where I felt "at home" and safe....

All yesterday there was a constant undercurrent of thought about this whole ordeal, occasionally overpowering other work-related thoughts, and sending me into mini panic attacks. And when I checked the web for the weather right before I left work, I couldnt help but see the latest on the shootings...the package sent to NBC, and for the first time, a list of the victims, with a photo and a mini bio of each. Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at their smiling faces, in pictures that could have been taken just a couple days ago...people blissfully unaware of what fate lie ahead of them.

I hate that we can no longer let our guard down anywhere. With anyone. That every time we say goodbye to a loved one, that THAT could be the last time we see them. Sure, the US has always had crazies capable of horrible acts but, concomitant with today's society of self-absorption, complete lack of respect for anyone else, and ridiculously easy access to weapons, it seems that we nurture and grow these crazies, almost encouraging them to flower into full-blown monsters. And then we're shocked when they ACT like monsters. Fuckin'-A man, we MADE them. The VT shooter sent out warning signal after warning signal, and no one with the power to do so really helped him. Instead, we armed him. Australia pretty much banned ALL guns after their worst killing rampage (also 30+ people), but sadly, I doubt the US will come to the same conclusion.

P.S. And JN, I don't think I've gotten a better compliment than yours about going full bore & writing.... I feel like it's been a million years since I wrote anything, like any talent I may have had is long since extinguished. Thank you.

Thursday, April 19, 2007 at 6:15:00 AM PDT

Blogger Kato said...

Definitely thoughtful and well-written. Thanks for sharing you experience with us.

Thursday, April 19, 2007 at 11:06:00 AM PDT

Blogger Jege (Jen) said...

Here's a little more I wrote on the VT killings in response to a blog post that someone else wrote about it; they claimed that it was Cho's parents that were responsible, that guns don't kill people, people do, and that all the media about Cho being picked on in high school diminishes the 32 victims he killed. What a crock of reductive bullshit. Anyway, here is my response:

Cho's notes & videos never mention any anger towards his parents; they obviously loved him, and he loved them. They are devastated at his actions. To say that it is all his parents fault is inaccurate; they arent the ones who tormented him throughout his early school years in america. His parents did not marginalize him; the school bullies did. His fellow classmates who stood by & watched did. And the teachers who allowed such taunting to occur did also. Sure, maybe his parents could have gotten him therapy when he was young, but there is no way of knowing if that would have been enough to overcome what was happening to Cho once he left the house in the morning. A parent's sphere of influence over their child is limited; once a child goes off to school, his peers and teachers become the dominant influence on his behavior and self-image. Each and every one of us should acknowledge the power that our actions have over other people, and really think about what the cumulative damage of some "good-natured ribbing" can be on someone who is already vulnerable.

It is the responsibility of everybody in this world to treat our fellow human beings with respect and kindness. Cho's being mercilessly tortured and picked on in his early, formative years is not an excuse for his behavior, but it is sure as shit one of the reasons. Same story with the Columbine killers, who suffered at the hands of the school jocks for years before snapping. It is NEVER okay to harass someone, and this lesson has to start when we are very young. Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself, plain and simple. And if you find this kind of "love your fellow human being" shit trite, then just think of it this way: Before you taunt someone's differences, or say something hurtful, just think "Do I want to be the last straw with this person? The insult that made the difference between he/she quietly sobbing in the bathroom and opening fire in the lunchroom?"

Sure, Cho may have had biochemical mental instabilities since birth, but society also failed him. And in doing so, society failed those 32 innocent people who Cho chose to take out his lifelong anger at.
In order to protect the public, we also need to take care of the individual. We need to grieve and remember the victims, but we also need to learn from this, and do everything in our power to stop it from ever happening again.

It is no one person or institution's fault, it is a complex web of interconnections that failed here. We need to go back to the basics: teach your children kindness, tolerance & respect. Pay attention and get involved; we are all responsible for our fellow man. Learn to recognize and de-stigmatize mental illness, so people will not feel shame or fear about getting help, and devote the appropriate financial resources to allow this to happen(that last part goes out directly to the white house). And enact harsher gun control laws (again, WHITE HOUSE!!!). Learn from the successes that Britain and Australia have had through their progressive firearm policies. We Americans LOOOOVE our guns, but let's face it, the second amendment is killing our citizens. Guns DO kill people. How far do you think any of these mass killings would have gone if the killer was brandishing a knife instead of a semi-automatic weapon?

Sunday, April 22, 2007 at 8:59:00 AM PDT


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