Thirty-three students were shot and killed and 26 injured yesterday at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg in the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history. The final casualty was the shootist when he turned a gun on himself.
The number of deaths resulting from yesterday’s tragic event surpasses the August 1, 1966 killing spree at the University of Texas in Austin where Charles Whitman unleashed a homicidal rampage that lasted 96 minutes. Sixteen people were killed and 31 wounded.
Naturally, the Virginia Tech tragedy is getting wall-to-wall television coverage, and for the time being, rightly so.
Gone, however, are the days when news outlets sent specialist reporters to cover major events. Now it’s all hands on deck. CNN have reportedly deployed over 100 reporters and their camera crews to the Virginia Tech campus.
They have recalled Anderson Cooper from Afghanistan where he had gone to report all week on the state of the U.S. war there. John Roberts and Kiran Chetry, who took over the American Morning spots on CNN just yesterday, are reporting live from the Virginia Tech campus. And so on it goes.
What I notice from listening to CNN this morning is typical of cable news coverage no matter what station you turn to. They are not reporting news, but analyzing what few facts they have with an endless variety of talking heads. Then, cue the music and roll tape of stirring images as they go to break, like they are making a movie.
President Bush is visiting Virginia Tech today to console mourners and attend a memorial service. The President has also ordered the American flag to be flown at half mast.
CNN’s John Roberts, interviewing Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, asked him if he felt Bush’s visit would be intrusive because they are being overwhelmed with everything else that is “going on.” What is “going on” is a media invasion. Why should the President of the United States stay away?
In related news, it seems that the Virginia Tech tragedy will not push the testimony of U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, off the airwaves, not for a few days.
Newspapers report that the Senate Judiciary Committee canceled testimony scheduled for today after concluding that the hearing would be inappropriate in the wake of Monday’s mass slaying at Virginia Tech.
Committee chair Patrick Leahy, D-VT, said he postponed the hearing, which will focus on the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys, until Thursday after conferring with Gonzales and the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos told the Washington Post, “The attorney general would like to testify as soon as possible. But out of respect for the family members impacted by this horrific tragedy, he will defer to the chairman’s judgment on when to hold the hearing.”
In the meantime, students huddle around television sets throughout the Virginia Tech campus, watching for answers. I pray the ongoing analysis will help them in some way come to terms with the horrific events of yesterday.
Credits: AP Photograph/The Roanoke Times