An Engineers View on a Shooting at an Engineering School

The times they are a-changin’.

This post seems to be older than 17 years—a long time on the internet. It might be outdated.

I mostly have jumbled thoughts on this that I can’t quite put together in a completely coherent post. Each paragraph is more or less a separate thought and don’t necessarily tie together completely.

The first I heard about the shooting at Virgina Tech was a message left on my phone from Dad. I have a cousin, Drew, once removed (my dad’s cousin’s son, so whatever that makes it) at VTech who is only a year older than me. So in many ways, this hit kind of close to home since we’re related. Drew’s dorm is in West Ambler Johnston Hall, which is where the initial shooting took place. Thankfully Drew is safe.

I’m worried. School shootings have been contained to middle schools and high schools. Raging testosterone, bullying, and teenage rebellion probably played a significant factor in shootings thus far (I’m not an expert, but it seems plausible to me). This is how I was able to rationalize my safety. However, when shootings occur at a college, everything changes. The testosterone has settled, bullying is no longer prevalent (at least from my experiences), and there really isn’t anything to rebel against. People band together to get through life, not shoot it up. Thus, in a sense, this shooting really was random. And, as with all random things, there is no way to predict when it might occur next.

Now the flood gates have opened and the possibility of a copy cat shooting have dramatically increased. I worry that something like this, something like Virgina Tech could happen here. Thirty-three dead students at Mines would be over 1% of our undergraduate population. I think that Mines may be even more at risk then VTech was. We have a very rigorous program, very stressful if not managed properly. There’s a very unnatural ratio of male to female (78% male here), thus plenty of testosterone. It really would take just one bad relationship breakup to send some guy on shooting spree.

I think dying at school is the worst way to die and sickens me the most. Imagine spending so much time and putting so much energy into school, all to have life taken away from you just when the end is in sight? I remember an accident a few years ago in Seattle. A car full of high school seniors were driving to their graduation when they crashed and died. I remember thinking how awful that was. College would be even worse because you’ve spent that much more time working towards something that in the end, ultimately doesn’t mean anything.

I wish I could close my eyes and all this would go away. It’s been all over the news, NPR, and the Internet. The only way I’ve been able to get away from it all is by turning away, which seems like the wrong thing to do.