Letters: Tragedy at Virginia Tech

Listeners comment on the coverage and tragic aftermath of last week's shootings at Virginia Tech.

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REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

It's Tuesday, the day we read from your e-mails. Many of you wrote in during our coverage of the shootings and the tragic aftermath at Virginia Tech last week, including this e-mail from Catherine: I just graduated from Virginia Tech and am horrified by this. The Virginia Tech I know is a close-knit community tucked away in the hills of Southwest Virginia, a place where I could walk through campus alone late at night and feel safe.

I can't help but think that it could've been me. I was in Norris Hall one year ago, sitting in class. Instead of pointing fingers over what happened and blaming God knows who, let's change the way our society embraces gun culture. If this can happen at a school like Virginia Tech, then it can happen anywhere.

Another listener, John in Pennsylvania, wrote that what happened was an awful tragedy, but he disagreed that new gun laws are the answer. Why is it that when a single maniac commits an insane act, he asked, there are so many people ready to try to punish the rest of us for what he did? What we have here is not the failure of our system of gun laws but a failure of the mental health system.

Mental health was a big part of last week's show on predicting violent behavior. One of our guests explained that doctor's don't have a crystal ball and can't predict what people will do. Robin in St. Louis disagreed. I've worked in inpatient psychiatry at a major teaching hospital for over 20 years, she wrote. I do not agree that violence cannot be predicted.

The students at Virginia Tech and the Columbine students had glaring indicators that they were in desperate trouble. I'm stunned and saddened by the people who saw the danger signs and were unable to intervene. Let's stop saying these things can't be predicted and start stepping in to help while it's still possible.

We also took time last week to remember many of the victims at Virginia Tech, and Barbara Holt(ph) from Utah worried that in all the coverage people forgot an important aspect of this story. We sometimes forget there are other victims of these awful tragedies, she wrote, the family of the shooter. It is my hope that wherever we are, we can reach out to the mothers and fathers and the loved ones who suffer out of the spotlight, whose grief isn't publicized but whose lives are shattered all the same.

And another listener felt the violence at Virginia Tech needed to be put in a wider perspective. Kenneth(ph), a listener in California, e-mailed: In one day, at least 127 Iraqis were killed in random bombings last week. If the Virginia Tech killings of 30-plus had this effect on our national psyche, can we imagine how an ordinary Iraqi living in Baghdad must feel enduring far worse on any given day?

As always, if you have comments, questions or corrections for us about Virginia Tech or anything else we've talked about, the best way to reach us is by e-mail. Our address is talk@npr.org. Please let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

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