April really is the cruelest month, Mr. Eliot.
It was a windy day, a cold day for mid-April. Video footage from the Virginia Tech campus showed snowflakes swirling across the scene as stunned students in winter gear milled around.
The toll from the worst shooting spree in American history stands at 33. Thirty-three lives snuffed out on an unseasonably cold April day, on a University campus in a small Virginia town.
The suspect has not yet been named. The killer may have been a 24-year-old male from Shanghai who entered the U.S. on August 7, 2006 under a student visa. There is some evidence as to where he may have bought the weapons he used, as well as his last name, but it isn’t solid enough to publish at the moment (again, see the later updates in the first post about this historic shooting spree).
We are now beginning to learn, thanks to Virginia Tech’s own campus newspaper, the names of the victims. In the original blog entry about the massacre I wrote about the following confirmed victims in updates: Ryan Clark, Emily Hilscher, Professors G.V. Loganathan, Liviu Librescu, and Kevin Granata.
Freshman Reema Samaha from Centreville, VA was a member of The Contemporary Dance Ensemble, a student organization at Virginia Tech. She must have been good, too. While still a high school student in 2004, Reema won a critics’ choice award from The Critics and Awards Program for High School Theater. Reema Samaha won the award for her performance in a Westfield High production of the musical Fiddler on the Roof.
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A blogger writing at http://ihateandlove.blogspot.com/ knew Reema. In this entry, titled “Evil,” the blogger wrote:
A girl I knew was killed in the shooting yesterday. Her name was Reema Samaha, and she went to my high school. She was a very nice, very cool person… into drama. I am extremely sad that she’s died…
A sophomore majoring in International Studies and French, Caitlin Hammaren was apparently no stranger to leadership. This Google-cached page showed that she was a part of the Virginia Tech Residential Leadership community, a member of the Resident Assistant Staff. As a junior at Minisink Valley Central School in 2004, Caitlin also won an Excellence Award. Caitlin went to Girls State that year as well, a classic destination for young women nationwide who built records of achievement in their high school years.
GatewayPundit indicates that civil engineering majors Jarrett Lane, a senior, and Juan Ortiz, a grad student, were in Dr. G.V. Loganathan’s class when they were attacked by the Virginia Tech shooter. For the period 2004-2006, Lane was the recipient of a scholarship for CE majors sponsored by Stanley and Francis Cohen.
Wizbang Blog in this entry pointed readers towards Foreign Languages Instructor Jamie Bishop’s website, http://www.memory39.com/. Bishop wrote the following at some point on his bio page:
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Mild-mannered, bespectacled Jamie Bishop works as an “Academic Technology Liaison”* at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he provides technical support for faculty, staff and graduate students. After five, he battles the drudgery and ennui of the 40-hour work week, heroically pursuing creativity. (Victory or no, the glasses always stay on.)Often inspired by his artistic superheroes Dave Mckean, Frank Miller, Diane Fenster, and the ever-groovy René Magritte, Jamie enjoys creating digital art…
Besides being funny, Jamie Bishop was a talented artist and photographer. He leaves behind a wife, Dr. Stefanie Hofer. (Though some of Bishop’s biographical info on his site was out-of-date, which might lead one to doubt that this site was owned by the Jamie Bishop murdered at Virginia Tech, the photos of Bishop found there matched photos posted in this wrenching blog entry written by Jason Lundberg, one of Bishop’s best friends.)
Freshman University Studies major Matt La Porte was into the military, art, music, politics, even the paranormal. At least that’s what La Porte posted in his PureVolume.com listener profile. On MySpace.com, La Porte called himself Möttull Oakenhawk, and revealed his love for metal with a good deal more color and abandon.
Senior Chemical Engineering major Maxine Turner, freshman Computer Engineering major Henry Lee and sophomore History major Leslie Sherman were not as easy to track online, but I have no doubt that they lived lives just as colorful and unique as the shooting victims who had more readily-available information online. In updates I will attempt to post additional details about each of them.
For there will certainly be updates appended to this entry, since (unless I miscounted), I’ve only posted the names of 14 victims so far. There are 19 more people who have yet to be publicly identified.
The people above whose info was easy to track down merited much more space than I’ve given so far. Thirty-three murder victims could fill volumes of printed material.
Imagining those volumes weighing down a shelf in a dusty library, I sense again the massive loss of April 16th. No mere blog entry or news article will ever do it justice.
Again, updates will follow.
UPDATE 1, 8:18 a.m. ET
In the first entry, in update 13, I reprinted the message a gun store owner from Roanoke posted on a bulletin board:
Call BS all you like, but I just spent the last several hours with 3 ATF agents. I saw the shooter’s picture. I know his name and home address. I also know that he used a Glock 19 and a Walther P-22. The serial number was ground off the Glock. Why would he do that and still keep the receipt in his pocket from when he bought the gun?ATF told me that they are going to keep this low-key and not report this to the tv news. However, they cautioned that it will leak out eventually, and that I should be ready to deal with CNN, FOX, etc.My 32 camera surveillance system recorded the event 35 days ago. This is a digital system that only keeps the video for 35 days. We got lucky.
By the way, the paperwork for Mr. Cho was perfect, thank God…
I have removed the last name that was redacted before. It appears that the VA Tech shooter’s last name may have been Cho. I added emphasis as well.
The man who made the post above at a board at black-rifles.com (no link because the board has been down) used the nick “sharpshooter.” This is a Google-cached page of his user profile. The URL for his store’s website was posted in that profile:
Roanoke Firearms may be one of two stores where “Mr. Cho” purchased the weapons he used in the rampage. On-air reports via MSNBC have also debunked the ’student from Shanghai’ rumor. The man who purchased the guns at Roanoke Firearms was in the U.S. as a permanent resident, according to the same network.
I was happy to hear MSNBC mention the “waniusmaximus” stupidity — someone got it in their head that an Asian male using that screen name in several places on the Web was the shooter. One of the man’s weblogs went from about 8 — no kidding, 8 — hits a day to over 100,000. Geraldo Rivera talked about it on-air on Fox News.
The guy liked guns, for sure — but since he was alive as of midnight last night, it can reasonably be assumed that he was not the shooter. And he posted to that effect. You can search the screen name, I’m not bothering with a link.
Websleuthing isn’t just mining search engine results and making clever assumptions. You do a little of that, but it’s never that simple, that’s all I’ll say.
Big thanks from me to Jeff G. for the tips.
UPDATE 2, 9:24 a.m. ET
A press conference in Blacksburg, VA was broadcast live on cable news at 9:25 this morning. Exhausted officials from the University and law enforcement presided, and took no questions from the assembled journalists.
The shooter’s full name was Seung Hui Cho, or Cho Seung-Hui (spelling per MSNBC). Cho was a 23-year-old English Major at the University.
Also revealed during the presser — there were victims in 4 classrooms in Norris Hall, and Cho was found among some of the victims. The overall crime scene was so complex, horrible, and large that it was exceedingly difficult to properly investigate.
There is no evidence at the moment of any accomplice, but there does appear to be some evidence connecting the double murder that took place in a residence hall on the VA Tech campus early yesterday morning with the spree that commenced two hours later.
The bomb threats that disturbed the campus in recent weeks, however, have not been connected to the mass murder.
More updates this afternoon.
UPDATE 3, 3:05 p.m. ET
Should the sheer evil inherent in an act like the mass murder at Virginia Tech ever make you feel as if your soul might break, remember the name Liviu Librescu.
I mentioned engineering and math instructor Librescu, one of the many victims of mass killer Seung Cho, in my first entry. At the time, news of the Israeli/Romanian lecturer’s towering act of heroism was only just beginning to make its way into coverage of the tragedy. His will not be the only story of its kind to come to light, but when the man’s life and work are considered, his may be one of the most remarkable.
Some of the following information was culled from an article published by the Jerusalem Post.
As a child, Librescu was sent to a Russian labor camp after his father was deported by the Nazis. He was saved from death during the Holocaust by kind strangers in the town to which he was sent.
The ’70s saw Liviu Librescu back in Romania, and again living and working under the thumb of a dictator, Nicolai Ceaucescu. Apparently it wasn’t much of a life or livelihood, though, as the government didn’t allow him to have contact outside the country. Librescu defied this restriction and published articles in his field anyway.
Liviu Librescu’s affiliation with Israel put him at odds with the Ceaucescu regime, and he finally lost his job in Romania. He took his family to Israel for a time, then in 1986 to Virginia, where he stayed.
At Virginia Tech, Librescu thrived. He would become one of the most (perhaps the most) published professors on the faculty — a mark in academia of a teacher’s overall success. He left his mark as a mentor and teacher on students from all walks of life.
Yesterday, on Yom Hashoah 2007 — Holocaust Remembrance Day — Liviu Librescu gave his life so his students could live. Librescu, age 76, blocked the door to his classroom in Norris Hall, giving students time to escape from windows in the room. He was shot to death by Seung Cho.
Though neither she nor I are Jews, my wife teaches English at a Jewish school. Through her I became aware of Tikkun Olam, a Hebrew phrase that translates, “repairing the world.” Reconstructionist, Conservative, and Reform Jews believe that Tikkun Olam means they must work towards justice and parity in the world. Dana’s school lets students off for “Tik Days.” Let my better half, Dana Huff, explain it to you:
On Tik Days, students and teachers engage in various volunteer activities. (…) I’m really impressed with how much our students do for their community. It really makes me proud — as proud as if I were their own parents, I think…
Kabbalists, according to Wikipedia, have a poetic view of Tikkun Olam. They say that when a Jew performs Tikkun Olam, they “repair the tattered shards of creation,” and slowly begin to return ” the universe to its form as God originally intended.”
Liviu Librescu lived through the evils of the world that further rend creation — the horrors of the Holocaust, then the dark repression visited on Romania by Nicolai Ceaucescu. And when it came time to bar the door from another, very peculiar evil, he held fast at the rip in the Universe for a moment, and saved a number of young and innocent lives.
Tears don’t often come when I write about crime. Almost never. Getting older, events in my own life, and sheer exposure to these things have all conspired to give me a thicker hide than I had 10 or 20 years ago. Reading about Liviu Librescu and how he stood against the door while death hammered away outside, I couldn’t stop the tears. Because in a world filled with stunted, vestigial souls like Seung Cho’s, Librescu’s act of heroism was bold testimony to the fact that there are also plenty of great souls to go around. Plenty of people who see the darkness as it tears through the veil and instinctively leap to close the gap. Men and women like that are the ones who should never be forgotten when their names are attached to events like the massacre at Virginia Tech.
Remember the name of a hero, Liviu Librescu. Remember how he tried to hold an insane and rapidly shattering world together.
The Smoking Gun has one of Seung Cho’s plays. AOL’s Newsbloggers have another. It will come as a surprise to no one that both plays seem to show a fascination with and attraction to violence. Are they real insights into the author’s mind? Maybe.
Too many sources to list have recounted how the mysterious name “Ismail Ax” was found written in red pen on Cho’s arm. The weblog CourtZero has an entry showing that someone has even registered “IsmailAx.com” as a domain name. Fortunately, someone else snagged some “Ismail Ax” blog names just to prevent further exploitation.
There are already dark murmurings across the blogosphere about how that name has muslim connotations. I doubt there’s anything to that, though, other than the inevitable politicizing of the event. This man will turn out to have been the classic “outsider” brand of mass killer — paranoid, egotistical, maybe delusional, passive-aggressive, with pronounced antisocial characteristics.
Though Cho was a writer, I find myself less tempted than I have been in the past when investigating similarly complex killers to try and figure out how his mind worked. I guess I feel I just won’t be too shocked or surprised by what I find. I’ll still look, though.
I’d rather know how the mind of a man like Liviu Librescu worked. In the scheme of things — whatever that phrase means — acts like Librescu’s are far more important. They show the rest of us what we could be, if we thought more about how to repair rather than destroy the world.
UPDATE 4, 5:24 p.m. ET
If there is a crime blogger whose take on this mass murder should not be missed, it’s Trench Reynolds. Trench ‘wrote the book’ on blogging school shootings.
Also, my thanks to Noah Shachtman at Wired for the shout-out. Coming up later tonight I will be posting a guest entry that is relevant to this story, one authored by esteemed true crime author Kathryn Casey.
For a different perspective where the mainstream reporting about this crime is concerned, check out London’s The Independent. To be fair, I should also express my appreciation to the UK TimesOnline Newsblog for the mention in this entry.
MSNBC’s Clicked gave CrimeBlog.US a nod, but I’m recommending their entry for the yeoman’s job blogger Will is doing in compiling links about the victims of the VT massacre.
UPDATE 5, 7:57 p.m. ET
A Facebook group was established for Professor Librescu:
In memory of Professor Liviu Librescu who saved his students at Virginia T.
You will need a Facebook account to view the group.
Reading commentary left there by people from all over the country was incredibly moving. I couldn’t get through one page of comments without tears.
A few examples:
A student from Stuart High, Andrew Walker, wrote: “My friend’s brother is alive because of this man. God bless him.”A young Canadian man named Evan Goldenthal was eloquent: “Just one candle can light up a room filled with darkness. Professor Librescu has lit the entire world with hope, reminding us that heroes can still exist even in our dark times. My heart goes out to all the victims , as well as their friends, family, and all else effected by this horrendous tragedy.”
High school student Minh-Huy Huynh addressed the professor: “i have the goose bumps just reading about this. you’re really a great man. may you rest in peace.”
Megan McMahon’s comment was pointed — “I knew that there was going to be a story like this…and it’s stories like this that should be brought to the attention of all rather than focusing on the negative… you’re a hero Prof. Librescu…rest in peace.”
Most powerful to me was the single word posted by Virginia Tech alumni Mike Weinstein… “Kaddish.”
From the Jewish Virtual Library entry for “Mourner’s Kaddish“:
The Kaddish is a prayer that praises God and expresses a yearning for the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. The emotional reactions inspired by the Kaddish come from the circumstances in which it is said: it is recited at funerals and by mourners…
The source did not indicate whether or not there is a special Kaddish for heroes.
UPDATE 6, 4/18/07
For “A look at 28 of the victims,” see the Annapolis Capital Online. The UK’s Guardian Unlimited also has a fairly comprehensive article.
The New York Times may have one of the best write-ups found in the mainstream media on the victims of the VT massacre.
(NOTE: If you appreciate this kind of blog coverage, please consider a donation to go towards the support of this site. A PayPal button can be found on the lower left side of the page. Thank you for your comments, your support, and for reading. ~ Steve Huff)