The first time I heard about what later became known as the case of the elderly man who was randomly selected and shot dead on the street and whose killer posted it on Facebook was when my wife got a telephone alert from the university where she teaches telling people that a shooter was on the loose and asking people not on campus to stay away and those on campus to get into lockdown mode. The puzzling thing was that the message mentioned the location of the shooting and it was several miles away from the university and there was no indication that it had anything to do with the university nor that the shooter was heading towards it. So why the warning?
My own university did not issue an alert immediately but apparently some students and their parents were incensed that students had not been alerted and told to take shelter. In response the university did issue an alert a little later. The idea that a killer was on the loose seemed to have created widespread panic.
I don’t get it. Cleveland is a major American city and thus murders take place with dreary frequency pretty much on a daily basis and it takes time for the killers to be apprehended, if at all. At any given time, you can be sure that there are murderers wandering loose on the streets of the city. So why was this killing such a panic inducer? Was it simply because it was posted on Facebook?
I have noted this tendency before, especially with parents of students away from home, who view with alarm any shooting that occurs within 100 miles of their children’s college. As I wrote back in 2012 in response to other tragedies.
My children were in college during the time of the shootings at Virginia Tech and other college campuses. Since the events did not take place on their particular campuses, it never crossed my mind to call them to see if they were ok and they did not expect it either. When we did speak at some point, they said they were surprised at the number of parents of other students that had called to make sure their children were fine.
Maybe I am heartless or maybe our family is somewhat more phlegmatic than others but it all seems a bit much to me. We have not suffered like the friends and family of the people who were killed and it somehow seems insulting to them to act as if we had.
It seems to me that many people live in a state of latent anxiety and almost any incident is enough to bring it to the surface.