Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Campus Shooting Close to Home

Shootings on a college campus unnerve everyone, but when a shooting occurs on your alma mater’s campus, in a place where you once walked, it hits a deeper nerve.

ShootingSearchOn Thursday afternoon, Seattle Pacific University was under a lockdown after at least four people were shot, one fatally, in Otto Miller Hall, a relatively new building that houses the Division of Science and Engineering.

A suspect, wielding a long gun, was disarmed by SPU staff after he shot his victims and was attempting to reload. He has been taken into custody.

SWAT team members scoured the campus looking for a second suspect carrying a handgun, but police indicated there appeared to only a single shooter..

The Seattle Storm women’s professional basketball team was practicing at the university’s Royal Brougham Pavilion, located across the street from where the shootings reportedly occurred.

Seattle Pacific University, like most universities, seems an improbable place to shoot people. It has a small, quiet campus tucked on the north side of Queen Anne Hill, a comfortable neighborhood just a downhill swoop away from the Seattle Space Needle.

Such a sight would be a shock anywhere, but especially for a school with a reputation for prayer meetings, not protests. The biggest conflict on campus, at least in my time on campus, was usually a spring water balloon fight pitting guys against girls in white blouses.

SPU is affiliated with Free Methodists, which has a pacifist tradition. That’s why there isn’t an SPU football team. The sport is too violent.

So why would a shooter choose a college like this?  If it is a random choice, all of us can be more uncomfortable in our daily walks of life, even when we are in what we regard safe sanctuaries. If the shooter had specific targets, our discomfort is only slightly less visceral.

As subsequent reports are filed, we will learn more about this incident’s specifics. Meanwhile, I find myself wondering how I would have reacted if I was on in a classroom on campus when the shooting started. One student interviewed by the Seattle Times said she heard two muffled sounds, which she thought was a chemistry experiment gone bad. When she went to see what happened, all she saw were people on the ground who weren’t moving and blood stains on the carpet.

Other students reported receiving  text messages from victims saying they had been shot. How would you react to a text message like that?

The news of the shooting spread quickly. University officials posted information about the incident and lockdown on the SPU website. After getting a mass email notifying them of the lockdown, many of the school’s 3,500 students called their parents to assure them they were all right.

You hear stuff like that about school shootings and feel empathy. When the shooting occurs on territory closer to home, it evokes something deeper. It tells you bad things can happen to anyone, anywhere.







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