“… he who seeks to deceive will always find
someone who will allow himself to be deceived.”
~Niccolo Machiavelli, Italian historian, politician, diplomat
The response of officials at all levels to the shootings at Virginia Tech may go down as one of the most skillful and well-organized efforts to evade the truth in this nation’s history. The school and politicians in Richmond knew that if the public was to become aware of the extent of the school’s inept decisions and actions before, during, and after Cho’s rampage, there would be hell to pay. Therefore, as much as possible, the public had to be kept in the dark about the incriminating evidence. The school, and state officials, needed to guide, control, and manipulate—whenever they could—what the public knew.
Tragically, Virginia Tech was not an isolated incident. There had been a devastating dress rehearsal for Virginia Tech’s evasion of responsibility just a few years before in 2002, at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia.
Cho’s rampage is especially unsettling for my family and me because Virginia Tech ignored the lessons from the Appalachian School of Law shooting. The parallels between the two shootings are staggering: mentally ill students whose penchant for violence was well known by the schools; inept school and law enforcement responses to the shootings that led to additional losses of life; and the unwillingness of school officials, law enforcement personnel, and politicians to be honest in dealing with the victims’ families. These parallels dramatically underscore just how little the Steger administration had learned from Virginia’s first shooting. Virginia Tech clearly wanted to keep that fact from the public’s eye.
The Appalachian School of Law is less than 130 miles from Virginia Tech. For weeks and months after the law school shootings the media was filled with reports of killer Peter Odighizuwa’s mental problems; the school president’s belittling female faculty members’ calls for campus security and the inept response of the school, law enforcement, and rescue officials on the day of the shooting. Virginia Tech would have to have been enclosed in a hermetically sealed container not to have been aware of what had happened at Grundy and the lessons to be learned from a school shooting less than three hours away a scant five years earlier.
There is no way to hide that the failure to heed the lessons of the law school shooting made the tragedy at Virginia Tech inevitable. And tragically now, because the school and others are trying to hide many of the facts and lessons of Virginia Tech more school shootings are certain to happen.
First and foremost, Virginia Tech needed plausible reasons to explain away its failure to act immediately following the double homicide. The school needed some sort of justification for its timidity in the face of a clear threat to the campus. Toward this end, Virginia Tech opened a multi-level campaign to give the appearance that the school had not only been victimized by Cho, but that the school could not be held responsible for allowing him the opportunity to go on his shooting rampage unhindered. (To be continued)