Revisiting the Ghosts of Auroras Past


“If we don’t meet again, your final assignment from me is perhaps the most important lesson you will learn in life. Go to your mother, father, brother and sisters, and tell them with all your heart how much you love them. And tell them you know how much they love you too. Go out of your way to make good memories…at some point these memories may be all you have left. May God bless you all, Bryan.”

Professor Bryan Cloyd’s e-mail to his students. Cloyd’s daughter, Austin, died in the April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech shootings.

Virginia Tech, Columbine, Aurora. There are so many more, of course, so many we can’t remember despite each time promising ourselves we will never forget.

There will be a time to talk about news and social media again. There will be time to reflect on key moments, such as when a selfless teen turned Reddit into the world’s most important news channel during the first hours of the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting that left 12 people dead and many more injured, some permanently.

For now, we just need to listen. We always have and never really do, but I hope against hope that this time it will stick.

I will say this about the suspected killer: As many of you know I have some experience talking to capital murderers, and the question I’m asked the most is what makes them into these monsters. Are they all poor, are they mentally ill, are they all on drugs?

The answer is yes, and no, and everything else. The common thread, if there is one, is that they are far more like us than not. They are friends, neighbors, family. They are a poor mentally ill kid from Kansas City, Mo., and they are an upper-middle class neuroscience student from San Diego, Calif., who bought a movie ticket and brought hell to a Colorado town.

Everything else I want to say I’ve already said in the below post from just after the Virginia Tech shootings. I’m reposting here in its entirety because I don’t want to forget, and neither should any of us.

Now, Hear This (published April 19, 2007)

An elementary school student walked into his classroom, sat at his desk, pulled a loaded gun from his backpack – and blew his own face off.

This was almost 20 years ago in Jefferson City, Missouri. It was my first story on my first day as a reporter for United Press International. I still remember calling in the copy from a nearby pay phone, the crime scene and the students. I remember thinking how could this happen, why did it happen, and would it happen again.

Twenty years later, all that’s changed is the technology. News moves faster, guns shoot better. But tragedy is timeless.

You don’t need me to go on about the Hokie Horror that devastated Virginia Tech and froze the country in disbelief; we have Anderson Cooper for that.

I’ll just say this: It took five syllables and about a week for Don Imus to lose his talk radio job. Cho Seung-Hui gives us more than two years of warnings via teachers and students, spends time in a mental facility where he’s deemed a menace to society, and we don’t hear a damn thing.

Listen now.

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