Wednesday, May 06, 2009

This Is What You Do: A Shooting On Campus

Over two years ago, on April 17, 2009, after the Virginia Tech shootings, I wrote this post. Towards the end I wrote:

So far, two faculty members have been identified as among the dead, one of whom may have tried to block the classroom door to give his students time to escape through a second story window. Another faculty member, interviewed yesterday on NPR's Fresh Air, described barricading himself in his office as he heard the gunfire below, listening to students and faculty being shot and not knowing where his two children (enrolled at Tech) were at that precise moment. And I know that I am thinking about this because the human mind grasps precisely what it can handle and no more but: am I the only college teacher wondering whether I would have the courage to try to save student lives in such a pointlessly horrible situation, knowing that mine might be taken in the process? Or the flip side: have you imagined the agony of hearing or watching students being murdered while knowing that you were powerless to do anything to help them?

Well, one of the things I know now is that mostly it isn't that dramatic. What happened at around 1:30 today is that my administrative assistant came to my office and said calmly, "There has been a shooting on campus. A woman has been hit and the shooter got away." The shooter is, we think, her ex-boyfriend (it turned out the suspect is an older man from her hometown), and it happened in the middle of the campus bookstore. No one around me panicked, and I thought calmly, "OK, I am responsible for these people. What do I need to do?" We locked the doors and windows and went upstairs; two of us called the people who were not at the office and told them not to come in. Then we waited up on the second floor.

A student came by for office hours. We invited him in, I talked to him for a bit, and sent him home. He had no idea anything was happening.

We read our email alerts, deleted messages from our cell phones, and waited some more.

We watched as Public Safety cleared Foss Hill, where the students were holding their annual Spring Fling. The celebration -- a festival of music and partying (in 1972, the Grateful Dead came!) which marks the end of classes and the beginning of reading period -- had just begun when the shooting occurred. Coincidence?

Then we waited.

There was a police car outside our building, blocking off one of the streets, with lights swirling: the officer stood next to it with his hand on his gun.

And we waited.

After an hour, we all agreed to go home, and to leave in a group. Those of us old enough to have taken feminist self-defense classes in the 1970s rehearsed the classic moves to defeat a patriarchal aggressor: Jam the heel of your hand upward into the nose! Preferably hard enough to drive the cartilidge into the brain! Sharply slam your knee into his patriarchal nuts!

This all assumes that you even get to Feminist Move #1 and he doesn't just shoot you dead on the spot.

But as I say, it really isn't that dramatic. We saw each other safely to our cars, which were in a parking lot behind the DKE house, where the brothers had assembled some appropriate beverages, music, and were playing with the many wiffle ball sets they pass down from generation to generation. My friend Dr. Victorian noted brightly that had we known there were so many strapping young men available to protect us, we might have left earlier.

I came home and found out that the student has died; as I understand it, she was shot five times. There may be a second student who was hit.

Then I cried.

******************************

You can read everything I know about it here and here and here. When I first wrote this post, I had heard rumors about who had been murdered, but was not sure. Since then it has been confirmed: the murdered student's name is Johanna Justin-Jinich, and I have inserted her picture above. As of 8:30 P.M., while the police claim to know who her killer is, they have not released his name.

20 comments:

squadratomagico said...

I have nothing in particular to say: there are no words. As a Zenith alum, however, I just wanted to connect anyway.

Virginia S. Wood, PsyD said...

And yeah, I did wonder what I would do. Wet my pants, probably.

But I discuss with my classes now at the beginning of each semester what we will do if the sirens sound: We turn off the lights, lock the doors, move to the side of the class that's hardest to see from outside, and hunker down behind the furniture. We pretend not to be there, and we wait.

We do this right after my washing-hands-during-flu-season lecture.

Crazy world we live in.

I am so sorry about your student.(Yes, I know she wasn't yours, exactly, but they all are in some sense, aren't they?)

Flavia said...

I'm so sorry, TR. Thinking of you and everyone at Zenith.

Jackie said...

This news is so sad to hear, for your entire community and for the girl's family and friends.

Libby said...

I always wonder what I would do. Last year we had a scare--not even a real shooter, just someone who looked like he had a gun--and the campus locked down. I wasn't there, and I was so relieved. This doesn't random but that doesn't make it any les horrifying.

Elizabeth Tallent said...

I am so extremely sorry to hear about the death of your student and the wounding of another student. This is a terrible violation, a truly tormenting situation for everyone in your community, and for you. Our hearts go out to you, and you will be in our thoughts. (We because I mean my wife and myself.)

Plain(s)feminist said...

Oh my god. I just got an email from Michael Roth and came here.
Like Squadratomagico, I felt the need to connect. This is horrible.

Digger said...

I'm shocked, sad, angry, and fearful all rolled into one. Damn. Just. Damn.

Clio Bluestocking said...

That is horrible, just effing horrible. I'm so sorry you had to go through that, and for that poor young woman and her family and friends and everyone else affected by this.

historiann said...

I grieve for this woman's family. I can't imagine what they're going through. What a tragic waste of a promising young life.

She apparently is from Fort Collins or Timnath. The local news here in Colorado is all over this now. I'll keep an eye on the local news here and post updates as I find them,

http://www.denverpost.com/ci_12310499

http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20090506/UPDATES01/90506028

Andrea Goldman said...

As a Wes parent and aunt, I would like to thank you for your blog post. My son wanted to get in his car and come home. I told him to follow the advisory and not leave his room. The kids know who the shooter is. Word is it is another Wes student and the victim's ex-boyfriend. How are these kids going to sleep tonight? How can they possibly prepare for finals?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. I'm glad that you're okay, that things weren't worse. I've visited Zenith and know people there. I don't know what to say ...

Susan said...

There are no adequate words -- "I'm so sorry" seems pretty lame. My thoughts are particularly with the students, particularly Johanna's friends, and with her family. And also with you all the Wesleyan community -- it's scary personally, but also the helplessness is, I think, particularly terrifying. And I just checked the Courant again, and they haven't caught him.

My return to the traditional classroom has involved lots of things, but I hadn't thought of this one. I think I will check out my classrooms more next year. Our lights are all motion activated, so if you're very still they will go off. I doubt I'd be as calm as you were, but who knows? We surprise ourselves in time of crisis.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I just want to add my voice in sympathy with the students and faculty at Zenith -- this is truly awful. I'm bracing for the "why did it happen" stories over the next week... as if anything could make this make some sort of rational sense.

Knitting Clio said...

I extend my sympathies as well. Take care.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this. My thoughts are with your community during this difficult time.

Anonymous said...

As a member of campus administration, we just watched "Shots Fired". As a parent, the students are very much like our children in many ways - I know many of us would protect them if at all possible. When they are hurt or killed, something inside of us dies as well. They say there is nothing worse than having to lose a child - the whole world grieves with the senseless act of this child's death. Eventually, you will resume your normal schedule but you will never forget. None of us can - each death leaves another scar. We learn to do the best we can for the living. Take advantage of the emotions running through you right now and do something positive that will snowball forward. Volunteer (www.voa.org), start a support group, sponsor a disadvantaged child (www.matanyashope.org), organize a charity walk in her name (www.cancer.org/stridesonline), sign up to be an organ donor, donate blood, DO SOMETHING POSITIVE!

Stephen said...

This is such sad news. It is also frightening. I am very sorry and I send my support to those mourning and to those fearing.

The History Enthusiast said...

I am so sorry for you and others at Wesleyan.

Moria said...

This is unbearable. Love and strength to you and to all.