They Were Ours

This photo was not taken in 1966. You can probably tell by the skateboarder in the foreground.

I took it this afternoon while I was waiting to go sort out the mess with my sociology tests. I had some time to waste, and after striking out at the Co-Op (because nobody buys books early, apparently) I wandered around and started taking pictures. This one I liked. I admit, though, that I took it with something in mind.

August 1, 1966.

Five days ago was the 44th anniversary of the University of Texas Massacre – the second most deadly university shooting in history.

I admit, up until recently, I didn’t know very much about it. I knew the basic story – someone started shooting people from the top of the tower – but I didn’t really know anything about who, when, or why.

And then, a few weeks ago, I got on a Wikipedia kick. Somehow, I ended up at school shootings. (You know how Wikiventures work. You start at one place and hours later, you’ve traced your way through entries, covering everything from hammers to ducks.) For the first time, I read the entire story of the massacre. I read the names of the people who were killed and the story of the man who killed them.

Honestly?

It made me angry. Unequivocally, completely pissed off.

I don’t care if it was forty-four years ago. I don’t care if I didn’t know the people involved. Someone launched an attack on the students, faculty, and visitors of MY school. And though I’m disposed to feel some pity for the shooter, who had a brain tumor, I find myself unable to think of him without also feeling some malice.

The more I read of the articles about the massacre, the more strange I felt.

Reading about tragedies isn’t something that is new for me. I’ve always been a fan of the murder mystery, and admittedly, I have a taste for the macabre. Reading about the shootings in other schools left me feeling saddened, of course, but none of the other stories had quite the punch that this one did.

See, every day on campus, I walk past the Littlefield Fountain, where Roy Schmidt was killed. I spent a lot of time on the South Mall, between the buildings they call the Six-Pack. It is one of my favorite places on campus, and one of the most beautiful and so, reading about the students who died there was as disconcerting as it was maddening. In my mind, I can see the panic on their faces once they understood what was happening. In my mind, I can see the panic on the faces of MY classmates, in a similar situation that we can only hope will never occur. Many of those who died were our age. One young man had just finished a Spanish exam. One was walking towards the library. They were nearing the end of their summer session.

It is the utter… relateability… that makes this shooting so personal, even though it happened so long ago. While senseless violence is always tragic, the 14 victims of Charles Whitman will always stand out to me.

UT may be a school of tens of thousands. Our alumni numbers soar into the hundreds of thousands. But anyone who has had the privilege of being a part of this school will tell you – we are close. We wear our colors and flash our horns, and no matter where we are, other Longhorns will respond. We are one university body, comprising students, teachers, and alumni, and to attack one of us is to attack all of us.

We should strive to remember these victims, on our campus particularly. Some, like us, were students. Some were teachers and workers, some were children, and some were policemen. But they were attacked on our ground.

Forty-four years later, as a sophomore reading about the massacre, it feels terrifying, enraging, and ultimately, personal. Charles Whitman had no right to kill the people he did.

Because it was wrong.

Because no one should be killed.

Because they were ours.

*Bobs

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