" When your kids go to college you think they're going to be in a safe place and they're not going to have to worry about things like this." That's what Nacogdoches resident Karen Tucker said out of concern for her niece, a Virginia tech student.
But the shootings tell us once again tragedies like this can happen anywhere. Still some students at Stephen F. Austin State University prefer not to think that way, even on the day after the Virginia tragedy. Like any day, SFA students hurried off to class. They feel protected, but so did the Virginia Tech students before the shooting. SFA senior, Keatis Knox smiled and said, " SFA is so protected. It's real friendly and I don't think anything like that will happen." SFA graduate student, Christopher Howard agreed. " This kind of incident is so isolated that I just don't have any fear, really."
Despite heavy police presence, there's evidence of enough jitters to make students react to a familiar sound. Howard said, " The slide changes in astronomy today and it sounded like a 9 millimeter being loaded and some of us kinda smiled at the sound, but I feel safe." Howard was concerned he would sound callous, but he says it was a natural reaction of relief.
But could SFA handle an emergency like seen at Virginia Tech? SFA Police Chief Marc Cossich said, " I can play guessing games about a lot of different incidents, but we have to have the exact information." Police chiefs know there's not a fix all response for all emergencies. But plans of action help. Cossich says each year university police are trained on facing active shooters.
Just as seen at Virginia Tech when something bad happens communication from building to building is essential. At SFA emergency assistance phones are located throughout campus for anyone in need. Cossich said, " We have a mass e mail that we can put out very, very quickly. There are a lot of things we can do and there is a hot list inside the department of phone calls to different people and the campus at each one of the buildings."
University police refuse to second guess the steps taken at Virginia Tech, but they certainly want to learn from it. Cossich said, " One thing that it does do it gets people talking. And that's a good thing and we want people to talk about it. When you talk about it, you're going to learn from it."
SFA professors are organizing a public forum to discuss issues related to the Virginia tech tragedy. Criminal justice and psychology professors are trying to answer student. Faculty, staff and public concerns. The forum is Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Liberal Arts north building, room 102.