My Boss has the Virginia Tech Blues

I know we're all trying to make sense of what happened at Virginia Tech on Monday, April 16, 2007. Speculation and confusion seem to litter the conversations I've had with folks around here. Seems we just can't understand, yet again, why a student would randomly walk into a school and shoot a bunch of other students. The sad fact is, we've had this conversation before.

At this point, unlike some, I don't blame Virginia Tech. Perhaps it's because I've worked at universities for the past 10 years, and truly believe campuses and professors value their students' safety. I figure if the 23-year-old South Korean English major wanted to off innocents, he would've found a means by which to do so, regardless of the existence of metal detectors at every building, or cops searching backpacks for Glock 9mms (I found the link to his plays on Boing Boing). When it comes to murdering people, my philosophy is "where there's a will, there's a way." What willed his attack? That remains to be seen. Perhaps the shootings might have been prevented, but I assume Cho Seung-Hui would have devised some other means for carrying out his mind-boggling act.

The tragedy hit closer to home on Tuesday morning when I received the following message sent from Virginia Tech to our department chair, and forwarded from him to me:

"I write with great sadness and deep regret to inform you that we have lost one of our {Virginia Tech's} fine BSE graduate students to the horrible tragedy that occurred yesterday morning on the campus of Virginia Tech. Julia Pryde, a graduate student of Dr. Mary Leigh Wolfe, was killed while attending a class in Norris Hall. Dr. Wolfe and I met with Julia’s parents and sister at the Inn late last night. Words can not begin to describe this enormous loss and tragedy. Amidst the shock and disbelief, we could not help but think about Julia’s family and friends. There have been many other losses on campus and we should keep all of them in our prayers and thoughts."

Julia was actively researching in sustainablity topics surrounding land and water use at Virginia Tech, a pratical expert on composting. Mary Leigh Wolfe graduated from the U of M. My boss was a professor in Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech before coming to Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at U of M. He knows Mary Leigh Wolfe. He knows the buildings where the incidents took place. He seems sad.

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