There were about thirty students already there looking out of the windows onto the south mall when the professor entered the room. He actually began class but could not seem to get the attention of the students. He followed the class’s attention out on the mall just in time to see an Austin policeman gunned down trying to move students to a safer area next to the mall. A security officer came into the room saying someone was shooting from the top of the tower. We evacuated the classroom rather quickly. The hallway and basement were the safest places to be but I decided to go up to the top floor offices to get a better idea of what was happening.
None of the professor’s offices were occupied except for one whose door was open. As I walked down the hall toward that office the sound of a large caliber rifle thundered from that open doorway followed by two men talking. After all the bizarre events of the last few minutes it didn’t seem strange to me when I peeked around the office doorway to see one professor shooting a deer rifle at the top of tower while the other fed him ammunition. It never entered my mind to question why an English professor would have his deer rifle in his office complete with boxes of ammunition. This was Texas after all. Guns were commonplace. From the office windows, we could see the top of the tower clearly. Small puffs of smoke were coming from the rifle of the sniper on the observation deck. The large glass faced clock above the observation deck was shattered from others shooting back at him. The professor ran through several boxes of shells before running out of rounds. My ears were ringing.
I'm very fond of my adopted state, but I have the feeling that UT Austin doesn't have quite the same atmosphere as in 1966. Still. What a story.
On a different note, apparently this Asian-American VT student was widely reputed to be the shooter. His blog detailed his gun collecting enthusiasm, and mentioned that he was bummed over his recent breakup with his girlfriend.
As it happens, he had nothing to do with it all -- but apparently his blog has been flooded with visitors, he's been getting death threats (hadn't anyone heard the real shooter was already dead?), and the police have spent some time with him.
I was mildly amused that one of the pictures of his guns that had people worked up was of 14 Russian M44 bolt action rifles. I have a M91/30, the slightly longer model on which the M44 was based. Mosin Nagants may be cheap (the M44s sell for about $70) but they have got to be the hardest and slowest bolt action in the world to cycle. Works great as a tent pole, canoe paddle or club, though. Buying 14 of those may be a sign of poor priorities, but it probably doesn't indicate you're dangerous. (Especially as collecting MilSurp rifles usually involves filing papers with the ATF and your local chief of law enforcement -- not exactly the normal behavior of someone contemplating crime.)
"This is why I don't want to have children," announced one of my female co-workers. "You never know what's going to happen to them. It's scary. How can you have children in this kind of world."
"It's the only one we've got," I replied.
I'm never quite sure what to make of these kind of comments. Why should the realization that the world is at times dark and terrible incite in one the desire to avoid sources of hope?