English Professor Fred D’Aguiar Speaks About Violence on Campus

Published: June 3, 2016

by Fred D’Aguiar as reported in the LA Times Op-Ed on June 2nd, 2016

I got to my office at Virginia Tech a bit before 9 a.m. on April 16, 2007, and set about my day as most professors do, prepping for class, commenting on student papers and answering emails. I took a call from home that said there was a news flash about gunshots on the campus. Then a colleague knocked on my door and said something big was happening a few buildings away. From that moment, things picked up speed.

As I searched the Web for information, I began to hear sirens, endless sirens. Everyone was told to stay in locked offices. Two long hours later, we were allowed to walk directly to the parking lot, and everyone peeled away from campus. By then, it had become clear that an awful, violent event had occurred. But as the details trickled in — 33 dead, including the shooter and a student in my Caribbean literature class — I felt new levels of intensity followed by abject stillness, numbness and despair.

A week after the shooting, I met with that class to talk about the student who was killed. My mother cooked a Caribbean meal of fried plantains, black-eyed peas and rice, and a beef stew with a vegetarian alternative, all chased down with ginger beer (the nearest thing to a Caribbean soft drink that we could get on short notice in Blacksburg).

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