The tragedy at Virginia Tech is devastating. That seriously messed up people can so easily purchase guns in this country is frustrating. I'm sorry, but violence on this scale just doesn't happen with knives in countries where guns are banned. But I don't really want this post to be about my views on gun control, especially since so many posters are doing that so eloquently here already.
I think what's so different about this tragedy vs. Columbine is that like just about everything else in young people's lives, we are seeing students living out this experience online and with cellphones, video cameras, etc. The Washington Post, reg. required, ran an article today about how students reacted in real time, recording images with their cell phones and posting and sharing online. I think you really see the power of social networking in how Facebook lit up with messages from Virginia Tech students sharing information, checking in on each other, forming groups around the incident and beginning to mourn and grieve as well as to express anger at the shooter.
Virtual memorials on MySpace have been written about a lot when someone young dies unexpectedly. I think this is the first time we've had a youth oriented tragedy on this scale since sites like MySpace and Facebook have achieved such widespread adoption by young people.
Last night a Virginia Tech student who escaped harm was interviewed on NPR. She was asked if she was going to the convocation planned for today. Her voice was shaky as she explained that she wasn't sure, she still didn't feel safe to go to an event with so many people in one place on campus. I'm sure most of the students there are pretty traumatized and scared. In some ways being able to connect with groups of students on Facebook and express how they are feeling about the chain of events is a safer outlet for students who might be shell shocked right now. Also with school ending soon, there isn't a lot of time for students to process what happened with each other in person. So staying connected after they leave campus may help ease the inevitable PTSD that will be a reality for students directly involved in the incident. It's definitely an example of how this generation lives and dies both online and off.