This morning, I was putting the finishing touches on a post about Sharron Angle at XX when Marc messaged me to tell me that there was a shooter at the Perry-Castañeda Library. It took me a second to register what he was saying. The PCL is the library that is across the street from my old office at UT Austin, when I worked in the business school there. My routine at lunch was often to go to the library to drop off/pick up books, go to Jester to grab a salad from the cafeteria for lunch, and then go back to the business school to eat at my desk while reading blogs before getting back to work. The very picture of everyday, peaceful living. The specter of a gunman turning loose in a crowded area is such a frequent occurrence nowadays, but picturing it actually happening in my old stomping grounds was almost unimaginable. Some guy, reportedly in a ski mask, shooting off an AK-47 at the library. Surreal.
Thankfully, no one was hurt but the shooter, who killed himself on the 6th floor of the library.
So I did what people do nowadays and opened up Facebook to see a stream of updates from friends back home, most of whom actually were on campus when it happened. One friend in particular was in the shit—he’d been trying to get breakfast and was outside at the corner where the library is, and was hustled by law enforcement inside the business school. He frequently updated about being shuffled around. The picture above is from another person inside the business school, and I’m using it because it’s so surreal to me since I used to walk down that hallway basically every day. Being a classic smartass, said friend was cracking jokes about not being able to eat in peace, but over time, even his updates were more spooked than joking after awhile. The entire building was being swarmed by cops and dogs. They were looking for a potential second shooter because they had differing descriptions from people who saw the guy walking down the street with an AK-47, but luckily there wasn’t one.
My thoughts right now are scattershot. I’m glad everyone’s okay, and that the shooter’s wild shooting off of his gun didn’t result in any injuries.
This all happened within a stone’s throw of the first school shooting in the nation, when Charles Whitman climbed the UT tower in 1966 and started firing. Many of the people who died were not but a block away from this incident. People still claim that you can find some of Whitman’s bullet holes on campus; now there are more scars from gun violence added to the landscape. I’m not comparing the two incidents in magnitude, by any stretch, but just to note that there’s a cultural context that makes this whole thing even scarier than it already was.
Darkly funny observation that I picked up from Twitter: Conservative groups on campus were supposed to have a speaker come tonight who wrote a book called “More Guns, Less Crime”. Even though they no doubt flew the writer John Lott in already, I imagine his speech about how we can stop gun violence by having even more guns available will be canceled. Not that it will stop any of the people who invited him from bullshitting today that it would have been just great if there had been civilians carrying guns around when this maniac showed up on campus, because what you really need right then is more bullets flying around.
Like I said, I’m just mostly so relieved that no one else got hurt. Now we’ll just wait and see what the police find out about this shooter.