You can light a virtual candle in sympathy for Virginia Tech (not at all as corny as it sounds) here.
Yeah, we're all shaken by this. All of us.
This morning they released the name of the perpetrator and said his family's phone was not accepting calls. I'd like to say I can't imagine what they must be going through, but I can. They not only lost a family member to suicide, they must live with knowing that their loved one killed another human being first (or in this case a record number, as if we needed to know the record). How tragic. And how guilty they must feel, as every family member does who has lost one to suicide. What could they have done? What word, what action, would have prevented yesterday from ever happening?
I'm sorry for the victims. Horribly, horribly sorry. But goddammit I don't think this paragraph is off topic (emphasis mine):
The highest percentage of gun deaths in the United States isn’t homicides or accidents– it’s suicides. And a study like this confirms why that is– access to firearms makes it easy for people who are in danger of suicide to carry out their plans without getting help in time. The gun lobby counters that people who would commit suicide will do it whether they have access to a firearm or not, but the ease and quickness with which a firearm can be used to end someone’s life drastically reduces the chances these people have of getting help. And that reduced chance is undoubtedly a factor in how many people are able to actually carry out a suicide.
"Ease and quickness." Half a morning. Over thirty lives. My heart is with Virginia Tech today. Mourning. For everyone.
And yeah, I have some friends who are responsible gun owners, but I still wish they'd send Charlton Heston to Gitmo as a terrorist collaborator. Maybe Laura Bush can come out today and talk about the one gunman a day who discourages everybody. And her husband can show his deep empathy without mentioning guns once. (oops he did it again.)
Yeah, I'm doing it again, politicizing this tragedy. But this is a perfect example of our response to real terrorism, and we as a nation don't get that. The campus police fucked up, people. There was a murderer with a gun at large on campus at least an hour, possibly two, before the classrooms were shot up.
And there are solutions to this, most of which involve simply the proper use of existing technology in the area of mass communication in an emergency...
....I know! Let's invade Iran!
David Stephenson wrote me, and memo to the Democratic presidential field, he belongs at the Department of Homeland Security, because he gets it. (David's blog is in the process of being moved to Wordpress and will be down for a few.)
...there's NO PLACE in our society that should have been more on top of real-time, location-based info sharing about something of this sort than a college campus, because of their high concentration of tech-savvy users, let alone a technology one:
* the media, especially CNN, have been full of photos shot by students with their cameraphones. Along the lines of what NYC is developing, the university could have had a process in place for students to submit their photos and videos, which would have given situational awareness.
* the SquareLoop technology would have let the authorities broadcast alerts that would have automatically been received by every cell phone on campus (without the students having to register for the service)
* social networking apps such as Boostloopt, Dodgeball.com, etc. would have allowed the students to share info instantly (and, in fact, they did share via Myspace)
* while I'm sure the university had a crisis plan, when things spiral out of control, as they did in this case, a wiki would have allowed real-time, collaborative planning of ad hoc responses.
* the iFind project at MIT would have allowed instantly identifying students' locations...
* the "presence dashboard" developed by Zingerang would have allowed instant networking among all involved to plan response.
* Portland's "Connect and Protect" would have allowed two-way 911 information sharing..
It adds up to the stark reality that the first incident should have resulted in an immediate lockdown, and the second round of shooting (unless there's something that hasn't been reported yet...) should never have happened.