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So why a school? And not just any school, but a college campus of more than 26,000 students — possibly the only place even more vulnerable than your local schoolyard. And why now, just a few days before the infamous anniversaries of Waco and Columbine?

At least 31 dead, including the gunman, and another couple dozen injured at Virginia Tech. That’s the breaking news this morning, recalling images of Charles Whitman in his tower and Harris and Klebold stalking their high school library.

Let’s hope the investigation is thorough and transparent, and the truth is treated as something to be studied, something useful in preventative planning — rather than something to be hidden away. The Columbine tragedy, although it transformed the way first responders tackle active shooter situations, was also notable for what authorities tried to hide (see The Columbine Reader) for more on that front. But the recent Bailey shooting shows that cops who have nothing to hide can get information out in a timely way.

Not every school massacre can be stopped, it seems. Yet the questions that the next few days will bring — about warning signs and access to weapons, about security and police response — deserve real answers. —Alan Prendergast

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun