On Virginia Tech

When I heard about the murders at Virginia Tech on Monday, it reminded something you hear a lot about growing up in Austin. In 1966, about a year before my parents entered the University of Texas, an engineering student named Charles Whitman climbed 28 flights of stairs to the observation deck of the main building, barricaded himself in with several days of rations, and started firing at the lunchtime crowds below. After several hours of terror, Whitman was stopped by two brave police officers who burst into the observation deck and gunned him down. Whitman killed sixteen people and wounded many more. Cho-Seung Hui murdered twice as many, and again we mourn and pray for those affected, and the media rushes onto the scene with their cameras in search of a Pulitzer. Unfortunately I don't believe we're as shocked, at the crime or the frenzy around it.

We've come face-to-face with evil again, in all its self-obsessed, destruction-bent horror, just as we did at Columbine, on 9-11, and in Austin in 1966. As the talking heads debate gun control and wonder why everyone missed the warning signs, the fact remains: Hui had multiple opportunities to seek help for whatever issues he had, and instead he turned away every offer of friendship and decided to destroy as many people as he could before he destroyed himself. It's the same problem we've had since the Garden, and we won't be rid of it until Kingdom Come.

That's not to say we can do nothing in the face of such evil. As the Apostle Paul put it, "do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Everytime there's an episode like this, we hear about acts of selfless courage in the face of it, and this time was no different. A Romanian professor who survived the Holocaust barricaded a door with his own body and delayed the murderer long enough to save the lives of several students, much as this teacher at Columbine did. Bastards like Clebold, Atta, Whitman and Hui will always be around, and they can take as many lives as circumstances allow them to, but they can't take honour, and so long as we value honour and teach it to our children, there will be men like Professor Librescu, Todd Beamer, and Dave Sanders to remind us that evil can be overcome with good.


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