"In order to preserve the vigor of the moral faculty, it is of the utmost consequence to keep young people as ignorant as possible of the crimes that are generally thought most disgraceful to human nature. Suicide, I believe, is often propagated by means of newspapers. For this reason, I should be glad to see the proceedings of our courts kept from the public eye when they expose or punish monstrous vices." --Benjamin Rush*
We've all heard far more than necessary about Cho Seung-Hui; frankly, I think a brief mention of his name in the bottom corner of some newspaper article would have been enough. "Murderer identified as Cho S. &c; senior at VA Tech" covered all the information anyone other than his poor parents needed to hear. Heaven knows, keeping the information to that sentence might have offered them some much-needed mercy.
The current journalistic culture of "too much information", which has so willingly provided us with the ability to peruse the internal workings of a diseased mind, only arouses morbid curiosity. "But it raises awareness", someone will say. Sure it does--especially in those most likely to repeat such a crime by imitation. If anybody wants awareness, a simple list of warning signs of such mental disorder will suffice. Awareness itself is no cure, anyway, but that's a subject for another time.
Here are the real stories of the Virginia Tech shooting, the ones worth telling and re-telling. You've heard them, I'm sure, but here they are again:
Professor Liviu Librescu, survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, barricaded a classrom door with his own body and told his students to flee. His intervention allowed several young people to escape through the windows before he was gunned down. He died on Holocaust Remembrance Day, giving his life to save others.
Ryan Clark, resident adviser in the dorm where the shooting began, in the words of one friend "would do anything to help [his friends]..." He died coming to the aid of another student.
Zach Petkewicz is still alive, as are all the other members of his class--because upon hearing the shots come closer, he came out from behind the teacher's podium, where he'd initially hidden, and got his fellow students to help him push a table against the door. The gunman managed to crack the door just enough to empty a clip of bullets into the room, but Zach and the others continued to push against him. After reloading, Cho went looking for easier prey, leaving Zach's class unharmed.
Those are the people we should hear most about; theirs are the minds that should be brought to public attention and revealed for awareness' sake. They--like Columbine student Cassie Bernall, who admitted her faith in God despite the gun held to her head, and who died at the hands of Cho's idea of a martyr and hero--are the people we should remember.
Just one more thing: The most insightful piece I've seen on the Virginia Tech shooting yet is this little post on grieving by Kathy Shaidle, a conservative Christian commentator from Toronto. Though she doesn't write gently, she put down some real truth in this article. Give me "Amazing Grace" over "My Heart Will Go On" any day.
* from "An Inquiry into the Influence of Physical Causes upon the Moral Faculty", 1786; quoted from Benjamin Rush: Signer of the Declaration of Independence by David Barton, 1999 WallBuilders Press, p. 122