Students in classrooms were taking exams. Others were registering for classes for the coming semester. Still others enjoyed snacks or meals, alone or in the company of friends. Just an ordinary day on an ordinary university campus. But something wasn't ordinary. On this day, there was a monster about.
July 31, 2002, the monster left a bomb packed with bolts, screws and nails in a bag on a table in the crowded cafeteria of the Frank Sinatra International Student Center of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. When the bomb exploded, its contents shattered glass, smashed wooden chairs, and ripped through bodies, ultimately leaving 9 dead and 85 injured. The dead included 4 Israelis and 5 Americans. Their names were David Ladowski, Levina Shapira, Maria Bennett, Benjamin Blutstein, Dina Carter, Janis Ruth Coulter, David Gritz, Daphna Spruch, and Revital Barashi.
On April 16, 2007, on another campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, another monster lurked. Armed with two pistols and deadly intent, he first entered a coed dormitory on the campus of Virginia Tech University and shot and killed two people. Later, he entered an engineering building and killed 30 more and wounded still more. The names of the dead in Virginia have not all been reported but include Emily Hilscher, who knew the killer, and Liviu Librescu, a 77-year-old engineering professor, who blocked the door to his classroom with his body when the gunman came, at the cost of his life. Librescu, a Romanian-born Holocaust survivor, was a citizen of Israel.
The motives of the two monsters no doubt differed as did other details of their crimes. The first, an employee of the Hebrew University, also acted at the behest of Hamas, terrorists supported by Iran and now the duly elected "Palestinian" "government." The second, a student majoring in English, as far as is known worked alone and had, according to a note left at his dorm, some grievance with "rich kids" and "debauchery."
This does not make the two crimes or those responsible fundamentally different.
Mass murders all differ in their particulars. And motive isn't even an element -- a factor requiring proof -- of the crime. The key element is intent. And the intent of abovementioned two murderers was similar -- to bring about mass deaths and mayhem against innocents. The results of such intent were, in both cases, similar: scores dead, injured, distraught, anguished, traumatized.
But while the crime of April 16 feels real, the one of July 31 may seem distant and abstract. Not for reasons of time -- one event recent, the other nearly five years ago. But because similar events in places like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Madrid and London and Bali and Moscow are reported virtually every day. You read about them in your morning paper. Mass murder is now a daily fact of life.
And so TV reports of the multiple murders in Virginia were, understandably, nonstop. Newspapers would soon trumpet headlines like BLOODBATH, underscoring the horrific reality of what had occurred, on an ordinary campus, here at home.
My modest hope is that we hold onto that reality, then bring it out and and feel it in all of its horror when we next read about other victims in other places. Today, my thoughts are with the victims in Virginia. Later, they will be with those in other places who will have fallen victim to monsters among us.