Vigil remembers Viginia Tech shooting one year later

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 | 6:40 p.m. CDT; updated 12:03 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — On the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech tragedy, campus organizations will hold a vigil at MU to honor the lives of the 33 people who died on April 16, 2007, and call for peace on college campuses nationwide.

This comes at a time when the Feb. 14 Northern Illinois University tragedy is still fresh in the minds of many.

Locally, MU campus officials continue to struggle to entice students to register their cell phone numbers with their campus emergency Mass Notification System for immediate notification in the case of an emergency.

Geoff Brooke, Interfaith Chair for the Catholic Student Association, said the vigil will be a poignant and appropriate way to remember the tragedy.

“We are college students, just like (many of) those who lost their lives were college students,” he said.

The prayer service will feature readings and songs, but Brooke stressed that people of all faiths are welcome to join the vigil.

“I think regardless of everyone’s beliefs, what most people can agree on is peace,” he said.

A call for peace on college campuses seems particularly relevant in the wake of the Feb. 14 Northern Illinois University shooting, which left six dead.

On the MU campus, the Northern Illinois tragedy hit close to home for some students as the school is a large state university six hours away. Though MU’s campus emergency Mass Notification System has been up and running since November, student enrollment in the program has been small.

Although there was a small spike in enrollment after the February shootings, only 19 percent of students have signed up as of March 31.

So far, registering for the notification system has been voluntary; both Chancellor Brady Deaton and President Gary Forsee have sent e-mails encouraging students to sign up.

Terry Robb, MU spokesman for the division of information technology, said the Missouri Students Association is looking into assisting the university in increasing the number of registered students.

Robb said he is unsure why more students haven’t registered.

“I can’t get into people’s heads,” he said. “Either it’s simple apathy or they don’t think anything will happen here. I don’t know.”

Robb also said that he knows some students worry about receiving unnecessary notifications, and he emphasized that the university plans to reserve use of the system for serious emergencies.

MU senior Lauren Tussey is not registered in the system and has no intention of signing up.

“I think it’s a really good idea,” she said. “But I didn’t sign up for it because I try not to make decisions based on fear. ... I don’t want to be expectant of a school shooting.”

Tussey said that, despite MU’s large size, she feels safe on campus and doesn’t think there is cause to worry.

Although he hasn’t signed up yet, MU doctoral student Juan Gutierrez said that he intends to. He generally feels safe at MU, but he said news of campus shootings make him nervous.

“Sometimes I think it is a matter of time,” he said, “because every year it happens on some other campus. ... It’s hard to prevent this kind of thing.”

Reminder e-mails from Deaton and Forsee led Becky Pierson, an MU freshman, to register for the alert system.

“It’s one of those things,” she said. “You never think it’s going to happen to you until it does.”

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