I don't know anyone personally who is a student at Virginia Tech. But what happened today is horrifying beyond measure (and if you can say that about the deaths of 33 with no irony at all, imagine how much more so 9/11, the Spanish train bombings, the London transport bombings, or any given day in Iraq...). The odd thing about it is that it happened on Marathon Monday, where two Japanese wheelchair athletes and a Russian woman took their races and a veteran marathoner from Kenya took his third Boston. If this sounds like a strange juxtaposition, I mention it only because things like this have happened on Marathon Monday before, specifically the Waco debacle. I still remember, years later, seeing shots of the burning Branch Davidian compound intercut with the Marathon coverage, and just sort of looking at it incomprehendingly until it finally hit me in mid-afternoon that the siege had ended, and ended badly.
I had to go out and buy the papers tonight, hours after the massacre had ended. I couldn't help but remark to the person at the newsstand register that it was weird picking up a paper that had been printed early that morning in light of what had happened later today. The newspaper is, literally, yesterday's news. Imagine picking up a newspaper on 9/11 -- less than an hour after you picked up that paper on the way to work, the World Trade Center was in flames. If you kept that newspaper as a memento, you might put it away and forget what it said for a while, until a few years later you pull it out... and there is nothing extraordinary at all in there. It's an inherent thing in newspapers, not really a flaw when you can get your news practically instantly on the radio or net, but it's still a strange feeling.
A lot of people are talking about gun control in the wake of this mass murder. That's a perfectly understandable thing. I'm very unsure on the subject of gun ownership and the Second Amendment, so I don't know that I have much to contribute. I will say that by and large I think gun control is a good thing, but it's really very hard to find a happy medium, since the pro-gun and gun-control positions, like so many others in the United States, are extremely polarized. So what do you do when something needs to be done but there is no reasonable hope of compromise?
Thirty-three dead people on a college campus would like to know the answer to that. I fear there is none.