April 16, 2007
By now you have heard about the shootings at Virginia Tech.
"BLACKSBURG, Va. - A gunman opened fire in a Virginia Tech
dorm and then, two hours later, in a classroom across
campus Monday, killing 32 people in the deadliest shooting
rampage in U.S. history. The gunman was killed, bringing
the death toll to 33, but it was unclear if he was shot by
police or took his own life. ... The name of the gunman was
not immediately released, and investigators offered no
motive for the attack. It was not clear if the gunman was a
student. ... The bloodbath took place at opposite sides of
the 2,600-acre campus, beginning at about 7:15 a.m. at West
Ambler Johnston, a coed dormitory that houses 895 people,
and continuing at least two hours later at Norris Hall, an
engineering building about a half-mile away, authorities
said. Police said they were still investigating the
shooting at the dorm when they got word of gunfire at the
classroom building. After the first shots were fired,
students were warned to stay indoors and away from the
windows. But some students said they thought the
precautions had been lifted by the time the second burst of
gunfire was heard..."
At the time that I am writing this, these numbers are the most
current numbers and are being reported by several sources.
There are the numbers, and then there are the people.
"Just two doors down from Norris Hall, where the majority
of the victims were killed in Monday's shooting rampage on
the campus of Virginia Tech University, Junior Tanner
McKibben was huddled on the floor. McKibben was crouched
alongside other students in a classroom in Pamplin Hall
behind closed blinds, staring at a television and trying to
get more information on the shootings. 'I was in the middle
of class and I'd gotten word from people by text message
that the early shooting happened. I thought only one person
had been shot, so I continued on to class,' said McKibben,
21. 'But more people started coming in and saying there had
been big shootings and then officials told us not to leave
the room and to get away from the windows and close the
blinds' ... When he got back to his apartment at around
noon, he spoke to a friend who was in Norris during the
rampage who said he'd seen people crying and running around
in the building as word spread of the incident. 'The
shooter didn't come in his room, but [my friend] said there
were 10 people who came in the room crying and they said
they saw a guy jump out of a third story window and break
his leg, which made them think twice about jumping out the
windows themselves,' McKibben said. ... A good friend of
senior Lauren Petty was also in Norris during the
shootings, and told her that he saw the shooter reloading
his gun and preparing to open fire again. 'He [my friend]
quickly closed the door and hid in a classroom and he
luckily got away'..."
Students gained knowledge of what was happening on campus
via word of mouth, text message, Internet, TV, and personal
observation. They decided what to do based upon what they
saw or heard each moment as it happened. They learned from
the actions of others, and did what they could to save
Some jumped out of windows, others worked together to
barricade doors. From the personal accounts by those who
took these actions, they believe that they are alive today
because these actions were taken.
The "What if?" questions will never be answered. They never
are, but there will always be those who wonder.
"McKibben said he was angry that the communication on
campus about the incident was not better. 'The worst part
is that the first shooting happened between 7:15 and 7:30
and I was walking to class at 7:45 for a test at 8 and I
had that class and then almost all of my 9 a.m. class
before I heard anything,' he said. 'I heard local
elementary schools were canceled before then and I was
walking to class at 7:45 -- and who knows if that guy could
have been around me?'"
This incident is currently being called the worst school
shooting in U.S. history, as well as the deadliest shooting
rampage in U.S. history.
The 8th anniversary of the 1999 Columbine massacre will be
this Friday, April 20, 2007.
For a list of "Major U.S. school shootings in the last 10
years," you can visit:
Columbine got the attention of the nation. Schools worked
hard to make things safer and prepare for possibilities
they had not previously considered.
"Friday, June 25, 2004
AFTER THE MASSACRE at Colorado's Columbine High School in
1999, police in Prince William County wisely devised an
emergency plan to respond to gun threats in schools. So
when a camouflage-clad 12-year-old appeared in Bull Run
Middle School last Friday armed with two rifles and a
shotgun, the police were ready, arriving on the scene
swiftly, sweeping into the school and arresting the boy.
Cool-headed teachers and staff alerted police, hustled
students away from danger and kept their wits at a perilous
moment. But the chilling fact remains that at least 10
minutes elapsed before the boy, who pointed a weapon at
students, parents and school staff, was taken into custody
-- 10 minutes in which he might have done unspeakable
damage. No one should suppose his act was an aberration;
this year alone there have been scores of incidents across
the country in which high school students, and even grade
school pupils, entered schools bearing firearms, often
Each day, somewhere in the United States, there are
students in schools with guns.
Over the course of the 2001-2002 school year, 2,554
students were caught with a firearm at school nationwide.*
*Source: 2004 Report on the Implementation of the Gun-Free
Schools Act in the States and Outlying
As reported at:
This number only represents the number of students who were
Thousands of students bring guns to school each year.
Millions of children and teens have access to guns in their
"More than a third (35%) of homes with childrenthat's 22
million children ages 18 and under in more than 11 million
homeshad at least one firearm, found researchers in a
RAND-UCLA study. But only 39% of these families keep their
firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition as
recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 43% of
these U.S. homes with children and guns reported keeping
one or more firearms in an unlocked place and without a
trigger lock. Nine percent keep their guns loaded as well
Whether the person with the gun is playing, showing off,
feeling the need for self-defense, or intending to do harm,
guns have the potential to wound or kill.
"April 11, 2007
A lawyer for a 15-year-old student charged in connection
with a shooting at a Chicago high school said today the boy
had found the gun and had no intention of 'doing something
on the order of ... Columbine.' ... 'It was something that a
15-year-old boy found,' she said. ... Gore allegedly shot
himself in the inner left thigh. The bullet traveled
through his leg and struck a 14-year-old male classmate
sitting next to him, Weber said. The bullet also traveled
through the second boy's right thigh, according to Weber.
... Weber said that another classmate saw Gore with a gun
before the start of their class."
In this case, the student and his classmate were
accidentally hurt. Fortunately, the wounds were not
life-threatening, but they were still gunshot wounds.
Before the start of the class, the gun had been spotted by
The "What if?" questions will never be answered. They never
That same day, in another part of the country:
"April 11, 2007
Fort Bend parents expressed concern about school safety on
Wednesday after a student was arrested on a charge of
possession of a handgun ... 'Apparently he had been showing
it in earlier classes,' Newsome said. 'I guess whoever he
showed it to brought it to the attention of the teachers
and the principal and they came and got him'..."
In this case, the gun was reported before anyone got hurt.
"Being safe can keep kids, teens, and even adults from
getting hurt. Many times, guns are fired by accident. All
kids should know what to do if they find a gun or if they
are with someone who finds a gun. ... A real gun is never a
toy, and life is not a video game. Real guns use bullets
that hit actual targets. If that target is an animal or a
person, the bullet can rip through skin, muscles, bones,
and organs, doing a lot of damage. A gunshot can
permanently cripple someone or even kill. ... Most kids in
gun accidents later say they didn't fire the gun intending
to hurt anyone, yet someone got badly hurt. So never show a
gun to a friend and never, ever point a gun at anyone -
including yourself - even as a joke. You or your friend
could end up in the hospital or worse."
Whether at school, at home, or visiting a friend, there are
far too many reminders that real guns have real
"A 10-year-old boy is in an Edmonton hospital with serious
injuries after being accidentally shot by another child.
Bashaw RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] say the child
was shot Thursday in a house near Donalda, southeast of
Edmonton. They say the child and several others were
playing when one of them found a loaded .22-calibre rifle,
'used for dispatching farm animals and predators,' the RCMP
said in a release. ... 'Everyone is reminded of the need
for safe firearm handling and storage practices. Even in
the hands of experts, a firearm can produce deadly
consequences,' Oakes said."
Guns exist. Millions of people (children, teens, and
adults) have access to guns every day.
Each year in the United States, thousands die when a
firearm is used with the intention of causing harm.
Hundreds more die from accidental injuries caused by
*Source: National Safety Council estimates based on data
from National Center for Health Statistics and U.S. Census
With the statistics being what they are, and with news
reports streaming in, it can be difficult for parents and
teachers to know what they can do. Just as difficult, if
not more so, can be knowing how to help children and teens
to deal with the news.
For children (as with anyone), the fear can be worsened by
a sense of things being out of control. While this can be a
tricky topic, millions of children as young as preschool
are learning to take control of their lives and their
safety if they see a gun.
"The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program teaches children in pre-K
through third grade four important steps to take if they
find a gun. These steps are presented by the program's
mascot, Eddie Eagle®, in an easy-to-remember format
consisting of the following simple rules:
If you see a gun:
·Leave the Area.
·Tell an Adult.
Begun in 1988, The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program has reached
more than 20 million children -- in all 50 states. This
program was developed through the combined efforts of such
qualified professionals as clinical psychologists, reading
specialists, teachers, curriculum specialists, urban
housing safety officials, and law enforcement personnel.
... The purpose of the Eddie Eagle Program isn't to teach
whether guns are good or bad, but rather to promote the
protection and safety of children. The program makes no
value judgments about firearms, and no firearms are ever
used in the program. Like swimming pools, electrical
outlets, matchbooks and household poison, they're treated
simply as a fact of everyday life. With firearms found in
about half of all American households, it's a stance that
makes sense. ... The Eddie Eagle Program has no agenda
other than accident prevention -- ensuring that children
stay safe should they encounter a gun."
At Virginia Tech, students used email, instant messaging,
text messaging, and cell phones to warn others on campus --
and to let their parents know that they were okay. They
worked together to barricade doors and flee the building
through windows. They did all they could to stay alive and
help others to do the same.
Children in preschool and early elementary are being taught
that they can take control of themselves and keep
themselves safe if they see a gun.
While these are very different situations involving varied
ages and circumstances, there is a common thread. Knowing
what to do in the presence of a gun (or gunfire) can make
all the difference.
This was a tragic day. There were far too many deaths. We
can be thankful for those who were saved, weep for those
who were lost, and learn all that we can with the hope of
making our schools (and our lives) safer places to be.
The "What if?" questions will never be answered.
They never are.
Questions of the Week:
What can be learned from such a tragedy? What can people
(teens, children, and adults) do to keep themselves as safe
as possible in the presence of a gun? What modes of
communication are used at your school if there is a threat?
What lockdown procedures are in place? What should you
know? How can information, preparation, and planning help
students (as well as teachers and parents) cope when they
see such a tragedy? What can you do to help?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum