Left: Photo of Cho Seung-Hui (click for larger image)
The tragedy of the massacre at Virginia Tech forces us to consider the fact that no one is imuune to the possibility that a sociopath such as Cho Seung-Hui could very well be sitting in the next chair in our classrooms, or in the next cubicle in the office.
I think back a few years to an odd student who attended the University of Toledo (I'll call him Mr. X). This individual - who majored in the humanities - developed a reputation for stalking female students and professors, writing disturbing prose, and generally creeping out those who associated with him. On two occasions I was called upon - being a tall, physically imposing, and occasionally reckless sort - to provide a bit of muscle should Mr. X become dangerous.
I once had to call the campus police about Mr. X after a particularly difficult experience in which he stormed out of a meeting with a female administrator, shouting "F**k this place!" when he did not get his way. Being several years ago, our first thoughts were of the Columbine tragedy, and we commiserated with each other about the disturbing prospect that Mr. X might one day turn out to be a killer.
I occasionally run a Google search on Mr. X to see if he has yet crossed over the edge. For all I know he might just be an angry person who manages to get through life without hurting anyone, but I am crossing my fingers while writing this.
Unfortunately, we all likely know someone who seems to be the proverbial ticking time bomb. There lurk among us more than a few demented characters like Cho Seung-Hui, and it is only a matter of time before the next horrific attack like the violence wrought upon the Virginia Tech community.
While I cannot prevent Mr. X from carrying out acts of murder, I will at least know that - in my own small way - I did not sit back and pretend this individual was not a threat. Of course, for all I know, he might turn out to be a fine citizen one day, and my fears turn out to be misplaced.
And yet, even the interventions by faculty and staff at Virginia Tech were not enough to prevent Cho Seung Hui from unleashing his fury on innocent students and faculty. I can only pray that the potential killers lurking near us do not target those whom I love.