I was in college in the 1960s. During that wild decade, there were so many acts of violence that it felt like a time never experienced before and in many ways, it had never been known before. The assassinations, the war in far-off Viet Nam, the demonstrations against the war, the Kent State killings by National Guard troops, the murders on college campuses happened over and over like a horrible wave of increading disorder. With each event, we felt a sense of impending disaster build.

On April 16, I had finished the very ordinary task of getting my hair cut and was paying at the desk when I noticed a silent tv screen behind the receptionist. Cutlines spilled across the images and I was so shocked that I had to ask the young woman if she knew what had happened. She reponded that there had been shootings at VA Tech. I was so stunned that I couldn't move, I wanted to watch and I wanted to leave, but I could only stand there transfixed and horrified.

Because I am older and the mother of now grown daughters, I reminded myself that these were two young women the same age as those in peril on the campus in Blacksburg and I wanted to be reassuring. But shock overcame maternal instincts and I must have showed it.

The other girl turned to her computer and quickly dialed up information. The other turned away from the screen and looked busy.

It took me back to the shootings at the University of Texas and all of the other shocking events of the 1960s that came with less coverage but the same announcement on television...my first feelings were the same-- a sense of shock and disbelief --that I had felt then. I couldn't protect these two--or myself--from the television images and it made me deeply sad. Sad for the innocence of the students and faculty on the campus that day, sad for the parents who must have been in agony, and sad for all of us who remembered this cruelty from a time long ago.

My sympathy to the Virginia Tech family.

Claudia Smith


Claudia Smith




Claudia Smith




Claudia Smith, “Flashback,” The April 16 Archive, accessed June 18, 2024, https://april16archive.org/items/show/1126.