Emergency personnel move an injured person out of Neptune Hall, a residence hall at Northern Illinois University; photo courtesy AP
I understand how depressed persons might want to take their own lives. I also understand how enraged people might want to target someone who has brought them harm or pain.
But I have never been able to comprehend how a person like Steven Kazmierczak - the gunman in the Northern Illinois University shooting - can target innocent bystanders in his violent response to his life circumstances.
Kazmierczak was an award-winning graduate student at the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was vice-president of the NIU Academic Criminal Justice Association in 2005, and he also contributed to an article on self-injury in prisons. This is hardly the stereotype of the loner gunman, and yet Kazmierczak's violent spree left seven people dead and another 15 injured.
The thought of such violence sickens me, and I struggle to come to terms with the mindset of someone who could bring so much pain and death to so many random people. There have been low points in my life when I questioned the merits of living, and I can recall several occasions where my rage at those who brought harm to my family members led to some violent thoughts. Of course, there is a tremendous difference between the fleeting moments of despair I have experienced and a person who actually carries out an act of suicide or violent revenge, but at least there is some rational process for these types of behaviors that I can understand.
At no point, though - even during my darkest hours - has the thought entered my head to harm innocent people, and I just cannot fathom how a person like Steven Kazmierczak can arrive at the conclusion that the optimal way to end his pain is by killing innocent students on a college campus.
Then again, perhaps my attempt to find a rational basis for mass murder is itself an exercise in futility. There may not be a logical progression in the thoughts that go through the mind of someone like Kazmierczak, despite the seemingly cold calculation and planning that preceded his minutes of bloody horror on the campus of NIU.
So I sit at my desk this morning, shocked and saddened at the senseless violence that occurred at a campus similar to others at which I have taught and studied, and I feel frustrated at my inability to understand why these incidents keep happening.
And I thank God that this was not my time to die.