Tuesday, April 17/07
WHEN 23-year-old South Korean-born student, Cho Seung-Hui, shot and killed fellow Virginia Tech students and teachers, most at point-blank range, it brought to the forefront the disturbing question of Why?
His identity has been determined, but the reasons for his murderous behaviour on the sprawling Blacksburg, Va. campus, which is home to at least 26,000 students, remains. However, a note uncovered by the Chicago Tribune, may give a clue to the killer's state of mind. That note rails about "rich kids" on campus, "debauchery" and "deceit" by "charlatans." He signed the note "Ismail Ax" in red ink.
Of course, the Virginia Tech massacre follows in an ever-growing list of "killing fields," which has even included Canada. The most notable being the 14 women slaughtered in the corridors of Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique by 25-year-old Marc Lepine on Dec. 6, 1989. Lepine, who would kill himself, actually separated the men from the women and then opened fire on the female engineering students while screaming, "I hate feminists."
However, such shootings on a massive scale stretches back to August 1, 1966 when Charles Whitman climbed to the top of the tower at the University of Texas and opened fire. He murdered 15, including his mother and his wife the night before.
And who can forget about the milkman who shot 10 Amish girls in a picture-book Pennsylvania schoolhouse in October 2006?
Or who can forget Columbine?
In April 1999, teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold wiped out the hopes and dreams of 12 fellow students and a teacher in the Colorado high school.
All these mass killings, including the Virginia Tech madness, had, seemingly, been pre-mediated.
While the previous massacres have been as a result of gunfire, the most savage attack came as a result of three bombings in Bath Township, Michigan on May 18, 1927. In this deadliest mass murder in U.S. school history, farmer Andrew Kehoe slaughtered 45 people and injured 58.
In trying to piece together Kehoe's rampage, it seems as a school board member he was furious over a property tax that had been levied to fund the school building and, in turn, he blamed the additional tax on causing foreclosure on his farm.
Kehoe "snapped" over a period of many months.
After killing his wife on the morning of May 18, he set his farm buildings on fire and as the firefighters arrived at his farm, a devastating explosion occurred at the school building. Kehoe had secretly planted dynamite and hundreds of pounds of pyrotol inside the school and he set it off with a detonator.
However, Kehoe wasn't finished with his deadly rampage. He drove over to the school area; denotated a bomb inside his shrapnel-filled vehicle, killing himself and the school superintendent.
As with most killers, Kehoe had a sordid history.
It seems when he was 14, the family's stove exploded as his stepmother was attempting to light it. According to Wikipedia, the oil fueling the stove soaked her, and the flames set her on fire. Andrew watched his hated stepmother burn for a few minutes before dumping a bucket of water on her. She would later die from the injuries. The stove malfunction was left unresolved, and Kehoe was never charged.
Among Kehoe's attack were children in the second to sixth grades attending the Bath Consolidated School.
Now nearly 80 years later, the Virginia Tech slaughter took 33 lives of the learning and teaching elite and one sullen gunman.
As expected, the "copycats" are starting to come out of their holes as I knew they would.
While writing this column, there were reports of threats and lockdowns and even evacuations at universities in Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and two public schools in Louisiana.
* Bogalusa, Louisiana High School and Middle School and Bowling Green School, Franklinton, La.: Man arrested for threatening mass killing.
* St. Edward's University, Austin, Texas: Threatening note found.
* University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, Tenn.: Telephone bomb threat.
* University of Oklahoma: Man spotted carrying a suspicious object. It was an umbrella, not a weapon.