This is not a scoop.
This is not an insider tell-you-anything.
This is not the beginning or the end or the first or the last word.
The heat was unrelenting. Here came the bagpipes. The procession. The tolling of the bell. The stopping of the clock. Dear diary: I was there. Dear diary: I knew someone once. Dear diary: I was that person. Dear diary: they were taken. Dear diary: here is a stone.
(Are you still listening?)
Another year. After so many. Before decades of others.
Here comes a birthday. We have stopped counting candles on the cake.
On August 1, 1966, the world heard Charles Whitman‘s gunshots as he shot and killed people he didn’t know from the top of the tower at UT Austin. It was the first mass shooting captured on television in the heart of a college campus and in full view of the Texas state capitol dome.
But before his public rampage, Whitman killed two women–family members–in the privacy of their own homes: his mother, Margaret, and his wife, Kathleen (“Kathy”). Kathy was 23 years old, a recent graduate of UT Austin, and a science teacher who had just completed her first year at Sidney Lanier High School.
Thanks to Donna Hilbert author of the new poetry collection The Congress of Luminous Bodies (Aortic Books) for tagging me in THE NEXT BIG THING
What is the title or working title of your book?
Tripwires and Trigger Fingers.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
For my first book, Teacher at Point Blank, I explored about how we can work and live under bizarre, unhealthy conditions that encourage a certain amount of denial. As I was waiting for the book to be published, I had to keep revising the last chapter because it began with a litany of rampage shootings at schools, and for about five years I had to keep adding names and dates to the list. It was a hideous feeling. It’s still true that every time a drastic event happens, we tend to treat it like something from Mars. But there I was, facing that list in my book. I wanted to examine that phenomenon of denial on a larger American scale, connecting different public performances of “mass violence” we have buried or forgotten about–starting with UT Austin in 1966.