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Online World Grieves for Va. Tech

Kim Hart

It comes as no surprise that grieiving Virginia Tech students turned to the Internet to cope with Monday's events, and it's probably even less surprising that the public went online to keep tabs on what was happening on campus.

When phone lines went unanswered and e-mail was down in Blacksburg, students reached out through the social networking sites that have become such ubiquitous fixtures of campus communication. Students joined an "I'm OK" group on Facebook to inform friends and family of their status.

Online traffic to the Virginia Tech Facebook Web site increased 550 percent on Monday compared to Sunday traffic, and it was 407 percent higher than the previous Monday, according to Hitwise, a company that measures Web traffic.

People set up sites and blogs to stay in touch. This Washington D.C. Blog created a feed for people to share new information or show their support.

My 21-year-old brother, who has friends who go to Virginia Tech, said he was constantly checking instant messenger away messages to confirm that his friends were OK. He told me that he knew that was the fastest way to find out if something had happened to them.

My own friends on Facebook have littered their profiles with VT logos and graphics of black ribbons, and I've been invited to join about two dozen different groups that have formed with names like: "DC area VT Alumni United" and "Hokies Together, United and Strong." And I'm not even a Hokie.

A profile that calls itself the "Official Virginia Tech MySpace Page" is full of condolences offered by fans and non-fans alike. More than 7,650 people have listed themselves as friends on that page.

Looks like these online hangouts are more than just ways to exchange gossip and post photos after all.

By Kim Hart  |  April 19, 2007; 8:58 AM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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Comments

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check out the amount of support world wide just visible through these two myspaces
http://groups.myspace.com/fallenangelsofaprilsixteenthtwothousandseven
http://www.myspace.com/mikeywayandaliciafansite

Posted by: meghan | April 19, 2007 11:11 AM

I want to get this message out:

Federal law prohibits those who have been involuntarily committed to mental institutions from buying handguns.

CNN says that Cho Seung-Hui had been committed under temporary detention order.

And...

http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/18/vtech.shooting/

"Cho was described as "mentally ill and in need of hospitalization, and presents an imminent danger to self or others as a result of mental illness, or is so seriously mentally ill as to be substantially unable to care for self, and is incapable of volunteering or unwilling to volunteer for treatment."

Someone needs to look into this.

Posted by: Rick Ryals | April 19, 2007 12:06 PM

I share with the rest of America the profound sadness at the preventable loss of so many young and promising lives at Virginia Tech. Dr. Phil is right, "When is America going to wake up?" I am a retired law enforcement officer, a forensic language instructor with a Ph.D. in Forensic Criminology and a Ph.D. candidacy in psychology. I am also a researcher affiliated with the University of Arizona, Center for the Management of Information (CMI) and the Center for Identification Technology, Education and Research (CITeR). With all my experience, training and education, my frustration intensifies every time there is a school-related violent act. As a society we publicize, dissect, and focus blame. Where is our concern for prevention and when will we put our energies and funds behind a serious and focused program for prevention? Our attention must be turned to the time when an individual can be influenced in a positive fashion. To date, we as parents, teachers, law enforcement officers, profilers and security experts have rushed to respond to each situation after the fact and question motives, security measures and even God to find the answers. We are looking for answers in the wrong place at the wrong time. The incident at Virginia Tech will not be the last of this nature. Within a short time of this disaster, schools in eight states experienced incidents of threats, bomb scares and lock-downs. We cannot afford to be naïve.

In conjunction with my educational efforts, I chose during this past year to become a substitute teacher in one of the local K-8 schools; to observe both teachers and students in daily interaction and become an active part of that process. Previously, my research focus has been internet predation and identification of pedophiles. What I have learned is that there is another dire need. I have received a real education in interacting with young students and have identified some who are in serious need of intervention simply by engaging them in conversation.

Earlier this month and prior to the Virginia Tech massacre, I presented a plan for a public service (free) training program in forensic language analysis to the administrator of this K-8 school and a proposal to expand our relationship in the development of an in-service educator curriculum to extend to all area schools, again as a public service. However, this horrible incident at Virginia Tech has intensified my crusade to convince school administrators, educators, legislators and others that we have to train the people who are in educational positions to recognize language clues for potential violence and recommend for treatment, "at risk" children before they become statistics. The only reasonable place to begin this training process is within the school systems.

The English Chair at Virginia Tech instinctively recognized from his language that the young man who committed this atrocity was severely in need of psychiatric care. She reported her observations to school administrators and law enforcement and encouraged him to seek treatment. It was too late, his mindset and pathology were already established and though some form of intervention might have helped him, as a 23 year old adult who had yet committed no crime, he had the right to refuse treatment. Unfortunately for his 32 victims, he was already on a path of destruction which had been planned for some time. He could have been identified in his youth as a person who had psychological tendencies toward depression, self-destruction and violence towards others. His language and actions could have been evaluated to detect the need for intervention. There are scientific, psycholinguistic measures which can identify emotional issues and a propensity for violence from written and verbal statements. Instead of continuing to focus on reactionary efforts, we need to be looking at our children when they are in their formative years, grade school and middle school to identify the danger signals early on and provide intervention and treatment.

To one who understands the significance of linguistic detection and teaches psycholinguistic technology to police officers, the process of early detection seems so obvious. These methods are trainable, understandable and non-intrusive.

I offer this as a partial solution for prevention. We have not seen the last of these incidents and preventative measures are needed now, not after the violence has occurred. We need to begin at an early age and initiate the process in our schools. Educators are the one group of people who have the most continuous and prolonged contact with our children. They need to be adequately trained in the application of psycholinguistics to recognize danger signs.

It doesn't stop there. My company cannot do it alone. I was moved by the power of the public outcry and support for the Rutgers basketball team following the comments made by Don Imus. That same outcry and positive support are needed here and now. Our communities must get serious about school budgets, class size, and stop handicapping our educators to the point that they are too overwhelmed to seriously focus on these issues. This effort must also include referrals and funding for treatment. How much does a SWAT callout, a Great Falls High School lock-down or the investigation of a violent act cost in terms of money, time, and loss of productivity, not to mention the cost to society of the loss of a single young life or that of an educator? It seems to me that money and effort would be better spent in preventing these incidents years in advance of their occurrence. Schools are under-funded. Child Protective Services are overburdened with huge case loads. The juvenile criminal justice system is swamped. Yet we appropriate vast sums of money to support security measures that are nothing more than Band-Aids placed on a gushing wound. Prevention, not reaction is the answer to this violence dilemma. It is not as newsworthy as a mass killing but certainly more effective.

I encourage your support in this effort.

Sincerely,

Dale L. Tunnell

Dale L. Tunnell, Ph.D.

Dr. Tunnell is available to answer questions regarding psycholinguistics and forensic language analysis and may be reached at the numbers and address below.

Forensitec

"Unlock the Truth"

P.O. Box 1283

Florence, MT 59833

Office: (406) 273-4815

Fax: (413) 254-4865

Email: dtunnell@forensitec.com

URL: http://www.forensitec.com

Posted by: Dale L. Tunnell | April 19, 2007 1:06 PM

We allow these events to happen and continue because many think the Constitution is a Bible.
...and the "right to bear arms" is a commandment.
That was written in a time when we were under the imperial threat of a European superpower, had 'hostile natives' at the frontiers, and had to hunt to survive and eat. We are no longer under threat from the redcoats, the native americans, and supermarkets can be found everywhere. Dont regulate, dont restrict, just end gun sales.

Posted by: James G. | April 19, 2007 4:46 PM

My 16-year-old son came home from school today, and informed me that a rumor is circulating aroung his high school that "the same thing is gonna happen tomorrow at school....someon'e planning to do the same thing."

I called the non-emergiency number at the sheriff's office to let them know. The dispatcher told me that she was told to inform concerned parents that they are aware of the rumor, and that it "has been checked into, and is just that: a rumor." I said, "as far as your department knows, right?" She paused, and then repeated her statement.

Understanding that I was neither confident nor reassured, she said that they are going to post extra security at the school. It is a school of over 2000 students. There is one police car in front, normally. I sure hope there will be adequate security.

Meantime, I've given my son permission to stay home tomorrow if he wants. He said he doesn't mind going.

Posted by: Cindy E., Gloucester, Virginia | April 19, 2007 8:29 PM

I reference to comments made by James G. who on April 19, 2007 stated: "We allow these events to happen and continue because many think the Constitution is a Bible.
...and the "right to bear arms" is a commandment.
That was written in a time when we were under the imperial threat of a European superpower, had 'hostile natives' at the frontiers, and had to hunt to survive and eat."

Since when is there a time limit or proof of necessity placed on our Constitutionally guaranteed rights? This government doesn't give us these rights, nor do they grant us these rights, all they do is guaranty these rights. We had these rights prior to the affirmation of the Bill of Rights. We were born with these rights. Perhaps you would feel better in a country that doesn't guaranty our rights. Perhaps England or Australia would suit you better. They've already seen the error of their ways and banned guns. See how well the ban worked in those countries with armed robberies skyrocketing and you may want to return here.
There was a law banning anyone from carrying a gun at Virginia Tech, did that stop this killer? Virginia has a law against murder, he violated that law 32 times. What in the world would make you believe a new law would stop this kind of killer? Can the police guaranty my safety 24/7 if a total gun ban is put into affect? Of course not, so why would I be willing to give up my right to self protection? If your so willing to give up your rights then be my guest, but as for me, I'll retain my rights. If near sighted people like you should ever decide that you are safer with criminals having guns than with law abiding citizens having them, then go right ahead and try this ban. That will be the day I become a criminal!
D. Watkins

Posted by: D. Watkins | April 28, 2007 8:01 PM

While we pray for the families of those killed at Virginia Tech, we should also pray that America wakes up to the folly of these so called gun free zones. This is nothing short of a welcome mat for killers. A place where they can feel safe in plying their evil murderous ways. A 100% guaranty of innocent death. What type of mentality could even develop a plan like the gun free zone? Disarm the innocent in the hopes that the evil doers of the world will follow suit? Why in the world would they think that someone bent on a killing rampage would be stopped in their tracks by a simple street sign that reads gun free zone? Would not a sign that read, loaded guns must be carried at all times, have better thwarted this murderer? Instead of a gun free zone sign, we might as well have put one up that read unarmed innocent children waiting to be victimized. We need to demand an end to the insanity of gun free zones. The lack of logic behind this is absolutely staggering. It's time that America wakes up and learns that a gun free zone is a recipe for more and more innocent deaths. If there is one thing that our universities are teaching our children, it's how to be a good victim. We don't need more victims in our society. I'm tired of seeing our children slaughtered at the alter of Sarah Brady. Let Sarah Brady be the next victim if that's the course she's chosen, but don't force that victim status on our children. I'd rather see a society of people that are willing and lawfully able to properly defend themselves. That's the America I pray for.
D. Watkins

Posted by: D. Watkins | April 28, 2007 8:05 PM

Jim-

Your argument for the dissolution of the second amendment is full of folly and naivety. While we may no longer face the threat of the redcoats, we are still under as much of a threat of assault by foreign forces. While imperialistic Europe may not be our primary concern, those who would do us harm are still present as shown by terrorist activities against US targets, most evident in 9/11. The natives for which you argue have been neutralized are still present although represented by a completely different sect. The VA shooter would be a prime example of "savages attacking at random" along with every other violent crime committed by a member the underworld of criminality so present in all societies. As for food and order of society, all it took was a hurricane to strike New Orleans to plunge a US city into a 3rd world country where law, order, and basic necessities were no longer available.

Your argument goes even deeper into folly by comparing the second amendment to being valid only for the threats and situations which were present when it was originally penned and ratified. If the second amendment is only valid for hunting, defense against indians, and liberation from redcoats, then it only serves to argue that the First Amendment is only valid for town criers, printed papers, and town hall meetings where orators would describe their plans in depth without the assistance of any electronic devices. This would also mean photographs (pornography, etc.), tv, radio, cell phones, internet, and other means currently enjoyed and thought of as "protected" would be void. The freedom to travel would also be restricted to walking, horseback, buggies, and sailing vessels without electronics. To set legal precedence to one amendment sets precedence for them all. Your argument is short sighted, ill-concieved, and dangerous. I strongly encourage you to consider what unintended consequences such a line of action would bring.
Kelsey Hilderbrand

Posted by: Kelsey Hilderbrand | April 29, 2007 7:23 AM

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