Saturday, August 1, 2009

August 1, 1966

The disturbing saga of Charles Whitman and the Tower shootings at the University of Texas began around midnight on August 1, 1966 with the murders of Margaret Whitman and Kathleen Whitman, his mother and wife. Then he went on to the observation deck of the Tower and began what, until Cho went mad at Virginia Tech 2 years ago, was the worst and, the first, school shooting in modern American history.

He purchased a M1 Carbine and a shotgun that morning, added to them to his collection of a Remington bolt-action hunting rifle with scope, a second shotgun and M1 and a handgun and placed them all in a footlocker with some other equipment. He toted that footlocker on a rented dolly to the University of Texas campus and entered the Main Building around 11:30 A.M. He made his way up the elevator to the floor below the observation deck, lugged his equipment up stairs after knocking out Edna Townsley with a fatal blow to the head and barricaded the stairs. He shot at a family climbing those stairs to the observation deck, which at the time was open to the public, killing 2.

All together, he killed 16 and wounded 32 until he was fatally shot at 1:24 P.M. by Austin Police Department Officer Houston McCoy, who traversed an underground tunnel to the Main Building with APD Officers Ramiro Martinez and Jerry Day and civilian Allen Crum.

The Tower is 307 feet tall and is a recognizable feature of the Austin skyline. The Main Building, which sits at its base, houses two libraries, the Admissions and Accounting office, the office of the President, and many other administrative and professorial offices. The observation deck on the Tower was closed for two years after the shooting and again in 1974 after several suicides. It was not reopened to the public until 1999 after security measures were implemented including access restricted to guided tours only.

It is with this history in mind that Texas legislators recently tried to extend the concealed handgun law to allow holders to carry weapons onto state campuses. It was, thank God, defeated. How someone really thinks that a student with a handgun could have ended this tragedy by shooting at Whitman 307 feet above their heads and who had excellent cover and a sniper rifle is really quite beyond me.

Instead, let us remember those who died or had their lives forever changed on that summer day:

Margaret Whitman
Kathleen Whitman
Edna Townsley
Mauguerite Lampor
Mark Gabour
Thomas Eckman
Robert Boyer
Thomas Ashton
Thomas Karr
Billy Speed
Harry Walchuk
Paul Sonntag
Claudia Rutt
Roy Schmidt
Karen Griffith
Claire Wilson's unborn child

John Scott Allen
Billy Bedford
Roland Ehlke
Ellen Evgenides
Avelino Esparza
F. L. Foster
Robert Frede
Mary Frances Gabour
Michael Gabour
Irma Garcia
Nancy Harvey
David Gunby
Robert Heard
Alex Hernandez
Morris Hohmann
Devereau Huffman
Homar J. Kelley
Abdul Khashab
Brenda Gail Littlefield
Adrian Littlefield
Dello Martinez
Marina Martinez
David Mattson
Delores Ortega
Janet Paulos
Lana Phillips
Oscar Rovela
Billy Snowden
C. A. Stewart
Claire Wilson
Sandra Wilson
Carla Sue Wheeler
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1 comment:

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

You really have a way of keeping everythign in perspective for me Texan.