Monday, April 16, 2007

A sad day in Happy Valley

At the time I wrote this, the Associated Press was reporting that the death toll was up to 30 people killed at Virginia Tech yesterday.

My gut tells me that number will be higher tomorrow.

When I walked into the newsroom Monday and found out so many had died in a Virginia Tech classroom and dormitory, my mind immediately started racing through the names of my high school graduating class.

I was desperate to know who from the South Western Class of 2003 chose to attend Virginia Tech.

One name immediately popped into my mind – a friend/acquaintance I attended elementary, middle and high school with.

I found out this afternoon that he’s fine; in fact, a Collegian reporter had the opportunity to speak to him for a localization story.

But even though Virginia Tech is two states away, the worst shooting in U.S. history hit home.

I don’t think I’m alone at Penn State when I wondered if something like this could happen in Happy Valley.

How likely is it that one student out of 40,000 could become so mentally unstable that a shooting rampage sounds like a good idea?

Is it even possible for university officials or local police to prevent such an occurrence?

My mind catapulted back to 1999, when I was in eighth grade and two students went on a similar rampage at Columbine High School.

The same thoughts crossed our minds then. Could this happen in central Pennsylvania?

Now I'm a senior in college, and it's like I've been through this before.

But a university campus is so much different than a high school, where the exits and entrances are clearly marked.

There are so many more buildings at a university like Penn State to protect, so much more potential for something to go wrong.

A story in the Collegian Tuesday will say that Penn State officials met after the shooting incident to discuss security measures at our university.

I was glad to know that, at the very least, a discussion had begun to address these issues.

And I’m as anxious as anyone to know what, if anything, can be done to prevent this from happening again.