As the story has unfolded the last few days, I feel so terrible for the students who lost their lives, and I’ve listened to the questions about whether this tragedy could have been averted. And I keep remembering a murder at my own college, back when I was a student.
The first we heard of any trouble was the night it happened, when all the residence advisors told everyone to stay in their rooms, because a student had been killed off campus. Within a half an hour, there were helicopters overhead and K-9 units combing the wooded campus in the dark. Although they were fairly sure it was a domestic dispute (which indeed it turned out to be), law enforcement and campus authorities also questioned a few students who had a history of mental illness or violence. Once the killer was in custody, the residence advisors called everyone out to the auditorium, where the president of the college addressed us, explained what had happened, and told everyone where they could go for grief counseling on campus if they needed it.
Maybe these things are possible at a small liberal arts college in a way that doesn’t work at a university the size of a small city. But when I hear about the two-hour gap between the first shootings and the larger slaughter, I do believe things could have played out differently.