So, where do we go from here? Shock and despise aside. Wonderment at the incompetence of the authorities in dealing with Cho. Questions that will remain at large despite news conference after news conference. Such as: Did the police attempt at once to breach the classroom building where the slaughter was taking place? Not were they called in time, but what did they do immediately when they got there?
That question arises from a place called Columbine, April 20, 1999, when a large force of heavily armed police cautiously circled the school (“Apache-like” I wrote at the time, before “Apache” became a protected species). From this there evolved a new police method, it’s been reported, requiring the immediate assault on a compromised building by trios of officers in the hope of reducing any slaughter taking place inside; and of course putting the officers at risk of an exchange.
There is the continuing question of what did this world do with Cho in the time allotted; parents, school authorities, police officials. It was considerable, we learn, but results speak for themselves.
There is the matter of a “gun-free” school campus and the eternal but now useless question of what might have happened had one of the students, or a member of the staff, disobeyed the injunction, and been armed during Cho’s mad act. This of course brings to mind the Luby restaurant slayings in Killeen, Texas, in October, 1991, when 23 were slain by a man who crashed his vehicle into the place and started shooting. Suzanna Gratia Hupp crouched and watched as both her parents were killed, knowing that she had obediently left her legally possessed pistol in the car parked just outside, Texas law of that time forbidding her to carry the weapon into the establishment. Suzanna’s helpless horror was instrumental in effecting the current Texas carry law.
We can argue these matters and more, including the propriety of endless playing of Cho’s on-camera last ill will and testament. But what, really, can we do? There occurs but one thing, reinforced by a recent driving trip to New York City and back to the D.C. area. The roads have become highways of egomaniacal outpouring. Speed limits mean nothing. Bumper-to-bumper has replaced “safe interval.” A steering wheel and a foot pedal have become instruments for working out the frustrations these times engender. Occasionally, overcrowded and over-sped roadways produce the phenomenon of this age: road rage. What can we do, thinking of what is now “Virginia Tech”?
We can be kind.
Behind the wheel, in the grocery line, at the game. We can attempt to recapture civility. Not a sea of misgiving and regret can wash away any of the campus horror that says, “for God’s sake, do something.” We cannot affect that past. What we can do lies in the next moment, the next week, our tomorrows. We can be all that was not in that morning. We can be kind.