Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“The simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie. One word of truth outweighs the world.”     Alexander Solzhenitsyn

April 20, 2007

“That Was the Desk I Chose to Die Under”

by mike

Read this compilation of first person accounts of the VT shooting from the Post. Then try and tell me that, with very few exceptions, we have a severe cultural problem when it comes to self defense in America.

I should be clear: I am in no way trying to blame the victims. As I said in a comment to Doug’s post, this isn’t about this individual shooting. 999 times out of 1,000, this is going to be the reaction students would have to a shooting. And that’s the problem. This isn’t about individual students and their actions; it’s about a culture that utterly failed to prepare them for the possibility of violence and evil.

That said, it might be instructive to go back and refresh your memory with some of the very basic easily taught defense tactics that I lay out in my post here so you can consider how they might have been applied in these situations if the students had been prepared and how that might have changed things.

It appears that in most cases, when the gunman was shooting a classroom, he entered the room and moved methodically around the room, confronting people face to face at short range, as close as three feet (in all of the following block quotes, emphasis is mine):

The first shot hit Librescu in the head, killing him. Webster ducked to the floor and tucked himself into a ball. He shut his eyes and listened as the gunman walked to the back of the classroom. Two other students were huddled by the wall. He shot a girl, and she cried out. Now the shooter was three feet away, pointing his gun right at Webster.

“I felt something hit my head, but I was still conscious,” Webster recalled. The bullet had grazed his hairline, then ricocheted through his upper right arm. He played dead. “I lay there and let him think he had done his job. I wasn’t moving at all, hoping he wouldn’t come back.” The gunman left the room as suddenly as he had come in.

In some of the rooms, it seems that the gunman actually circled around again shooting the wounded:

Violand, feeling panicky, pointed at her and said, “Put that desk in front of the door, now!” She did, and then someone called 911. The desk could not hold back the push from outside. The first thing Violand saw was a gun, then the gunman. “I quickly dove under a desk,” he recalled. “That was the desk I chose to die under.”

He listened as the gunman began “methodically and calmly” shooting people. “It sounded rhythmic-like. He took his time between each shot and kept up the pace, moving from person to person.” After every shot, Violand thought, “Okay, the next one is me.” But shot after shot, and he felt nothing. He played dead.

“The room was silent except for the haunting sound of moans, some quiet crying, and someone muttering: ‘It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. They will be here soon,’ ” he recalled. The gunman circled again and seemed to be unloading a second round into the wounded. Violand thought he heard the gunman reload three times. He could not hold back odd thoughts: “I wonder what a gun wound feels like. I hope it doesn’t hurt. I wonder if I’ll die slow or fast.” He made eye contact with a girl, also still alive. They stared at each other until the gunman left.

It all comes down to reaction time:

In Jamie Bishop’s German class, they could hear the popping sounds. What was that? Some kind of joke? Construction noises? More pops. Someone suggested that Bishop should place something in front of the classroom door, just in case. The words were no sooner uttered than the door opened and a shooter stepped in. He was holding guns in both hands. Bishop was hit first, a bullet slicing into the side of his head. All the students saw it, an unbelievable horror. The gunman had a serious but calm look on his face. Almost no expression. He stood in the front and kept firing, barely moving. People scrambled out of the line of fire. Trey Perkins knocked over a couple of desks and tried to take cover. No way I can survive this, he thought. His mind raced to his mother and what she would go through when she heard he was dead. Shouts, cries, sobs, more shots, maybe 30 in all. Someone threw up. There was blood everywhere. It took about a minute and a half, and then the gunman left the room.

There were some that ran to the sound of guns, but their actions were the exception rather than the rule:

Kevin Granata had heard the commotion in his third-floor office and ran downstairs. He was a military veteran, very protective of his students. He was gunned down trying to confront the shooter.

< ...>

One student, Zach Petkowicz, was near the lectern “cowering behind it,” he would later say, when he realized that the door was vulnerable. There was a heavy rectangular table in the class, and he and two other students pushed it against the door. No sooner had they fixed it in place than someone pushed hard from the outside. It was the gunman. He forced it open about six inches, but no farther. Petkowicz and his classmates pushed back, not letting up. The gunman fired two shots through the door. One hit the lectern and sent wood scraps and metal flying. Neither hit any of the students. They could hear a clip dropping, the distinct, awful sound of reloading. And, again, the gunman moved on.

< ...>

Room 204, Professor Librescu’s class, seems to have been the gunman’s last stop on the second floor. The teacher and his dozen students had heard too much, though they had not seen anything yet. They had heard a girl’s piercing scream in the hallway. They had heard the pops and more pops. By the time the gunman reached the room, many of the students were on the window ledge. There was grass below, not concrete, and even some shrubs. The old professor was at the door, which would not lock, pushing against it, when the gunman pushed from the other side. Some of the students jumped, others prepared to jump until Librescu could hold the door no longer and the gunman forced his way inside.

Of course, one has to ask: why was a brave old Holocaust survivor left to hold the door by himself? Why did only one person even attempt to confront the shooter? I think we know the answer to that.

h/t: The CDR.


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