Friday, April 20, 2007

A Very Sad Week

We are mourning the senseless killing of gay brothers and sisters shot down in Blacksburg this week.

Gays among victims of Virginia Tech slayings‘It’s not a gay thing, it’s an everybody thing’By LOU CHIBBARO JR. Apr 19, 1:44 PM

Members of the gay student group at Virginia Tech joined other students in sharing their grief over the shooting rampage Monday that claimed the lives of 33 students, faculty and staff members and were struggling over the discovery that gay people were among the fallen, the leader of the group said Wednesday.

“Thirty-three people were killed,” said Curtis Dahn, president of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Alliance of Virginia Tech. “Some were queer, and others were straight allies. The GLBT community at Tech grieves in the same way as others — deeply and as part of a greater whole.”

Dahn declined to disclose the number of gay or lesbian students killed or wounded in the incident, nor would he identify them, saying he and the gay alliance group wanted to wait until they were certain all families were notified about the loss of their loved ones.

“Yes, there were gay people that were killed,” he said. “One was a very close friend of mine. But I don’t feel comfortable talking about it because I haven’t talked to the families and I want to be respectful to the families, first and foremost."

Dahn also said he doesn't "want this to be a gay thing, because it’s not a gay thing,” he said. “It’s an everybody thing.”

Dahn said that like all others at the college, members of the gay alliance were grappling with the realization that a Virginia Tech student, 23-year-old English major Cho Seung Hui, unleashed the nation’s deadliest shooting rampage on their campus.

Authorities said Cho was a South Korean native known as a loner who had been suffering from depression. He took his own life in a classroom in one of the school’s crowded engineering buildings as police closed in on him, authorities said. Minutes earlier, he fired two pistols at students, professors and staff members in the building’s halls and in other classrooms, leaving behind a scene of indescribable carnage, according to details released by police and campus security officials.

The shootings in the classroom building took place about two hours after Cho reportedly killed two other students, a male and female, in a student dormitory.

Dahn confirmed reports that at least one of the members of the gay alliance, undergraduate student Erin Sheehan, was a survivor of the shootings in the classroom building. Sheenhan described her harrowing experience in witnessing fellow students being struck by bullets in network television interviews. She could not be reached for this story.

“She was inside one of the classrooms and she survived only by playing dead,” Dahn said. “I can’t even begin to describe it.”

Dahn said the incident prompted his group to postpone campus activities associated with Wednesday's National Day of Silence. The annual event is sponsored by the New York-based Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network to draw attention to anti-gay and anti-transgender bullying, harassment and name-calling at the nation’s high schools and colleges.
“It’s the last thing on our minds right now,” he said.

Instead, the gay alliance is devoting all its time and resources to help the school and its students deal with the aftermath of the shooting incident, Dahn said.

“This is a painful time for all of us, and we really appreciate the huge influx of support from everyone,” he said. “We are coming together as Hokies and as human beings,” he said, referring to the term used to rally school spirit for its sports teams and student body.

“We are sharing in our grief, regardless of minority status or previous social groups. Tragedy has broken down barriers,” he said. “We mourn.”

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights group, issued a statement Tuesday saying the group was joining the nation in mourning the loss of life at Virginia Tech brought about by the shooting rampage.

“Our prayers are with the students, faculty, families and the entire school community as the fact of this terrible tragedy unfold and as the enormity of the unprecedented loss sets in,” Solmonese said.
“America is a strong country with great resolve and it’s that resolve that will bring this country together in supporting the victims and their families and friends in the days ahead.”