My campus was locked down, and then closed, this morning when a gunman began firing shots. He entered the library, where all the security is designed to keep things from leaving inappropriately, went to the sixth floor (early reports said the fifth floor), and shot himself. The university’s warning system, instituted after the Virginia Tech shootings, helped to insure that there were no other injuries. I received a text message telling me there was an armed person in the vicinity of the library within minutes. I was not on campus, but my daughter was heading in to take a math exam. She got off the bus to find a small tank going down the street, helicopters circling overhead, and a woman in a green dress telling everyone that campus was locked down and directing them not to cross the street onto campus. My daughter couldn’t go to class, and couldn’t get home—the northbound bus stop was on the campus side of the street—so I drove in and took her to breakfast. People in my building waited for several hours. A SWAT team frisked them and took them to a classroom, where they stayed for two hours until a search of the building was completed. A friend of my daughter’s was on the sixth floor of the library this morning, and had to stay there for more than 6 hours.
A friend was teaching an early morning class, and reports:
[I] was lecturing on the ‘Crito’, justice, political obligation, civil disobedience and the unimportance of death; with what I thought was admirable Socratic sang-froid, I carried on and finished the lecture. Not sure many of them were paying much attention – at any rate to me. I had to change some of the examples (about coercion) rather rapidly as well.
I suppose that doesn’t say anything very good about the relevance of philosophy—or at least of the ideas of Socrates.
One notable feature of this morning’s experiences: My daughter had rapid access to an amazing amount of information about what was happening. She and I were both receiving the university’s emergency text messages. She could also receive the emergency emails. But she also began receiving text messages from students all over campus—some in class, some in their dorms, some at their university jobs, and some in the library. She had real-time information coming from sources all over the campus. Radio stations also did a great job—KLBJ-AM did an especially outstanding job—but social media beat out traditional media for those with a rich social network. For the rest of us—well, my phone sat there silently. But I heard everything from her.