There is no one emotion to describe the general reaction to the incident that took place at St. John’s on Wednesday, September 26, 2007. While the Virginia Tech massacre last spring left many students here shaken, nobody could fully realize the fear to come from such a tragedy until such a scare hit our very own Queens campus. As the campus was declared safe and ready to return to “normalcy” again, the questions may be piling up within all of us. How could this happen to us? Will there be a next time? Can we ever really feel safe again at school? There is nothing quite so scary as seeing the SJU logo next to the word “Gunman” in news headlines. There is nothing quite as surreal as seeing the campus on television.
Public Safety, the NYPD and Christopher Benson deserve a “Thank You” from every individual at St. John’s. Were it not for their bravery and immediate actions, September 26 may have ended in tragedy. The brand new text message alert system also proved to be essential in ensuring the safety of all students, both on and off campus. While only a few students had originally registered for this service, word of mouth took care of the rest and within a half hour, the entire campus knew. While the feeling of being trapped in a building and not knowing what was going on was scary for many, it was necessary to ensure the safety of all on campus while a thorough investigation took place. There is no other way the situation should have been handled, and given the circumstances, the situation could not have had a better outcome.
One thing is for certain: security very much needs to tighten up at St. John’s. While it is difficult to keep track of the thousands of people who roam the 105-acre campus on a daily basis, something needs to be done. As Omesh Hiraman proved, it is much too easy to get inside the gates. There should be a guard at every gate, checking IDs or parking permits. Perhaps Storm Cards need to even be checked upon entrance to any of the buildings on campus. This may be annoying for students and faculty, but hardly anybody can argue that it is better to be safe than sorry. There is simply no way we can leave our school as open as it is anymore. Unfortunately, the world is changing and becoming more dangerous, and all precautions need to be taken to ensure that school remains a safe environment.
St. John’s, as well as other schools, may want to consider requiring a mental health examination for prospective students in addition to a physical, signed by a doctor. Mental illness is seemingly much more prevalent among students today than it was in the past, so the Counseling Center should be more equipped with counselors to help those who may be suffering. Most importantly, students need to be more educated about personality and mood disorders. It may help them get a better idea about somebody they know who they think might have a problem.
For those students who may still be shaken by the incident, there is nothing wrong with feeling this way and wanting to talk to somebody about it. Even though this incident is still on all of our minds, in time we will come to feel safe again on campus. Life has already begun to go on, as it should. Now, however, we are more aware of the fact that anything can happen to us without warning.