33 Dead in Blacksburg, Virginia? I think I’ll take a walk


I decided to go for a walk.

It was lunchtime Tuesday, and it was one of those kind of days that we treasure in Detroit – hell, in all of Michigan – because it was one of those days pregnant with the promise of springtime. The blue skies, the warm winds, the relaxed smiles on peoples’ faces as they strolled about downtown at a noticeably slower clip than the wintertime hustle. The springtime pace is designed to soak in, breathe deep, and absorb because we all know this won’t last for long.

That’s the thing about springtime in cold weather rust-belt cities like Detroit is we can at least pretend that the insistent sunlight and warmth will melt away the ugliness of winter, both real and metaphorical. Spring is proof that there is always tomorrow, always until the end of time. There may be bloodshed and carnage to the left of us, but the sun also rises.

So yes, I know. I heard. About all the people mowed down by some deranged student who, like most deranged killers of his ilk, has already been classified as “a loner”. At least that’s what I saw in one recent news report. But even if I hadn’t read that he was a loner, I would have already known. Why? Because these mass murderer types are always classified as a “loner” or an “outsider” who “always pretty much kept to himself.” Oh, and don’t forget the quote from Mom that “he was always such a good boy.”

You’ll notice, by the way, the absence of quotes from Mom that “she was always such a good girl” before she decided to mow down the entire crowd for kicks. You’ll notice the absence of “she” whenever these types of stories appear, except the “she” that got murdered by the “he” that had always been “such a good boy.” Something to think about. Anyway, as similar as these guys are starting to sound, I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t the same guy coming back to haunt us all over and over and over again.

So I decided to take a walk. Figure out what I should say about all this, if anything. Because I knew everybody with a pen was going to be saying something, and why bother repeating everybody else, right? There’s only so much to say about a mass murder, even if it’s the worst in history. It’s horrible, it’s gruesome, it’s a tragedy – and you can bet the next tragedy isn’t far away. Just a few news cycles, as a matter of fact. Count on it.

And so as I got on the Detroit People Mover to take a ride over to the Millender Center stop, which is one of the closest stops to the Riverwalk, I started thinking about something I had said in an earlier piece, namely that all the furor surrounding Don Imus would last about as long as it took to identify the next Catastrophe of the Week. And sure enough…

But wait a minute. Was I talking about Don Imus? Or was that the FOX TV issue? The one about whether the Congressional Black Caucus should have hooked up with those right-wing crazies. Or was I talking about Tara Grant? Yeah, maybe that was the story. The one where hubby chopped up wifey and left her remains scattered about?

I dunno. I’m getting confused. So many tragedies, so little time, which is why I needed to walk. And as I slowly took my time strolling down past Hart Plaza toward the river, before deciding to head east toward the RenCen, I kept trying to think of something profound to say. Something really deep that no other writer would be deep enough to come up with. Something that would make this the definitive “33  Dead in Blacksburg!!!” column that all other writers everywhere would point to with awe, wishing they had gotten there first.

But then I reached the end of my walk, because it was time to get back to work, and I realized it just plain and simple does not matter. There are 33 dead in Blacksburg. There are more than 3,000 dead in Iraq, and that’s just the Americans. There are other atrocities in other areas of this country – and  in faraway lands – that we will never hear about because they don’t register on our media radar screen as top news. But does that mean they are somehow lesser atrocities simply because we didn’t hear about them on the 5 o’clock news?

Wow. Look at that seagull up there, the way he’s just floating, waiting for something to happen.

And waiting…


~ by Keith A. Owens on April 17, 2007.

5 Responses to “33 Dead in Blacksburg, Virginia? I think I’ll take a walk”

  1. […] Read more here… […]

  2. Sometimes a walk can clear the head and give moments of clarity. It’s just a shame that we have to keep writing about stuff like this, I hate these times, it’s almost a morbid sense of enjoyment of other’s misery on the news. Maybe one day we can write and celebrate that our troops are coming home….one day

  3. Latimer,

    No doubt these are harsh times, and it’s definitely painful to have to write about it. On the other hand, if folks like you and I don’t speak up and speak out, then there’s silence. And that is far worse.

  4. If I could take a walk every time something crazy happened in this world, I would be in really good shape.

    Just wanted to drop a line to let you know, we saw your comments over on Free Slave and thought to drop in and introduce ourselves as one of your AfroSphere neighbors.

  5. ExodusMentality,

    Great to have you up in the neighborhood, and thanks so much for introducing yourselves. It’s truly good to know you, and it’s always grat to have good neighbors. Free Slave is strong territory.

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