A freelance journalist who worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch for 28 years seeks the answer to an important question: “Could the [2007 Virginia] Tech killings change how people think about gun violence in Virginia and, by extension, the rest of the nation?”
On April 16, 2007, Kapsidelis was dispatched to the Virginia Tech campus, responding to reports of a shooting. In his first book, the author discloses what he saw that day, which included 32 students and faculty members dead, many others physically wounded, and countless emotionally traumatized. As he learned more about the perpetrator, senior Seung-Hui Cho, Kapsidelis cataloged the warning signs that he should have been in counseling and certainly should have been barred from procuring weapons. One of the most puzzling aspects of the killing spree was how the gunman was able to murder two students at a dormitory in the early morning hours, escape undetected, and then enter another campus building hours later to murder 30 more. Furthermore, why did university officials fail to alert students, faculty, and staff about possible danger after learning about the dormitory murders? Although Kapsidelis’ account of the violence is well-researched and clearly written, his book’s major accomplishment is the author’s exploration of the healing process, which he indicates in the subtitle. Too many accounts of murderous rampages fail to offer long-term insights into the trauma faced by survivors, but Kapsidelis provides useful information on the topic, including discussions of “gun violence as a health issue.” The author’s cast of characters is large, which may make the account difficult to follow for some readers; ultimately, though, the broad cast makes the narrative deeper and more profound. An unexpected strength is the focus on Virginia’s governor at the time, Tim Kaine.
An important book for policymakers and those interested in the continuing, depressingly widespread instances of gun violence.