To the Point With Michael Hogan

Michael Hogan

This past Valentine’s Day, a day when most were out basking in the warmth of love, was a day marked by catastrophe for the Northern Illinois University community. Shortly after 3PM on that quiet day in the small city of Dekalb, a suburb west of Chicago, an on campus shooting took six lives and seriously injured sixteen others. The NIU campus may be over a thousand miles from our home here on Columbia Point, but we can’t allow this physical distance to shield us from the stark reality of violence in our world.It would be easy for us to fall into that “it could never happen here” sort of mentality when it is happening in a whole other time zone. Many of us here at UMB have a very hard time picturing anything violent ever happening here on our campus. Well, those of us who feel that way would be wrong. These kinds of things could very easily happen here at UMass Boston. In fact, those these kinds of things have already happened here at our school.On the morning of September 22 Paul Thompson, a 21 year old UMB student, brought the shock of sudden violence here to our harborside campus. As an Inorganic Chemistry class was ending in the 2nd floor auditorium of the Science Building Thompson pulled out a knife and began stabbing himself in the abdomen. After nearly two hours of negotiation Thompson was persuaded to leave the auditorium and walk to an ambulance that was waiting on the platform to take the injured student to a local hospital. Before he reached the ambulance Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds Robert Gorman made an attempt to subdue Thompson who was still wielding his weapon. During a resulting scuffle University Police Sergeant Julius C. Hays was stabbed five times in the chest and neck, narrowly missing his jugular vein. The chaotic situation continued to escalate when Thompson broke away from the confrontation and began running towards the crowded plaza swinging his knife at fellow students. Boston Police patrolman Joseph Quinn who had escorted the ambulance to the scene opened fire on Thompson, hitting him four times in the legs and bringing him to the ground. After another scuffle the incident was ended without losing any lives.There weren’t any people killed, and it happened over thirty years ago. But, the simple fact that this incident took place right here at UMB is proof that it can happen anywhere, even here. We never know when a bullet or the blade of a knife are going to shatter our existence. So, we can’t just sit back and be complacent. Rather than attempting to find answers to the inevitable questions that arise after an incident such as the one a couple of weeks ago at Northern Illinois University we should be trying to find ways to live in a world where those questions never need to be asked in the first place.So, what do I suggest? How do I propose that we solve this problem? We need to recognize that there are people around us who feel neglected and alienated. We need to understand that sometimes a smile or a simple nod of acknowledgement can do wonders for a person on the edge, sometimes just a bit of warmth can save a life. Sure, we could install metal detectors all over the place. We could have armed guards and bomb sniffing dogs. But, would we feel safer, or more trapped?It is not enough to stop the guns from entering the buildings. We need to find a way to change the hearts and minds of those troubled souls who feel it is okay to kill another person. We need to change the mindset that sees the use of a gun as a viable solution to a problem. Guns need to be removed from the thoughts of those on the brink. Then we can worry about the unenviable, likely impossible, task of removing guns from the hands of others.