We’re All College Students: We’re All At Risk.

Victoria Cubera

I am an American, and I take my safety for granted. Even after 9/11, it never really registers with me that I might be personally endangering myself by going about my regular daily activities. I don’t live in an area where I have to worry about suicide bombers in the markets or newspaper editors being gunned down in front of their offices. My hometown doesn’t see much gang activity. And Colgate stays fairly low-key, beyond the occasional vandalism of student art projects on the quad. Unless I’m flying somewhere or watching the news, danger seems more like an abstract concept than a potential reality. Living at school and going to class are all just parts of having a normal day.

I’m sure many of the students at Virginia Tech thought similarly.

After this week, I don’t think that will ever be the same.

On Monday, mass murder occurred on Virginia Tech’s campus. The victims were students, faculty, children, spouses, siblings, lovers, friends. They were native-born citizens and they were international residents. Their deaths have profoundly affected the national psyche. As with the events at Columbine, the nation is responding to the tragedy, with grief, outrage and compassion. Vigils and services have been held across the country to show support for the Blacksburg, Virginia community. Early Tuesday morning, Colgate held an interfaith prayer service and memorial for the victims and everyone touched by the massacre. Blacksburg does not mourn in isolation; Colgate has alumni connections on the Virginia Tech campus. Around the world, people are reaching out to offer support and condolence.

In the aftermath, we will see what this tragedy means for the country. For now, we will see the media keeping emotions running high with extensive coverage, simultaneously informing the country of updates while exploiting the tragedy to sell papers and get higher ratings. Sensationalism sells, especially when the topic is directly relevant to the majority of the country. Parents want their children safe, and the killings were a betrayal of faith in the system to protect them. There are no easy answers, though. Arguing for stricter gun control or tighter campus security only addresses part of the problem. Installing metal detectors at every campus entrance on every university or having every purchaser of a gun to go through an extensive background check is not reasonable. Keeping armed security factions constantly on the grounds or posted in classrooms seems excessive and brings to mind martial law. Or maybe college applicants, students and faculty should be required to go through regular mental health screenings in order to detect potential security hazards.

On Monday morning, 33 people lost their lives. For the younger generation of the country, the ones who missed Columbine, this supposed inviolability of the educational setting was destroyed. There is death, and there is violence, and it can happen to you, at your school, on what you think will be just like any other Monday.

There is a sense of immunity I think many people in the United States feel, like nothing can happen to them, regardless of happenings on the global stage.

The bloodshed at Virginia Tech is a wake-up call. It doesn’t take terrorism, or genocide, or warfare or any kind of wide-scale action to put lives in danger. It takes one discontented person. And to that one person, we are none of us immune.