Thursday, April 26, 2007

Erika Hayasaki Shines With LAT Virginia Tech Story

There has been no story so poignant on the Virginia Tech massacre as the one by Erika Hayasaki in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times. She did everything right in this account of what happened in the French class taught by Jocelyne Couture-Nowak in Room 211, Norris Hall, on that fatal morning.

Like Flaubert's classic novel, Madame Bovary, virtually every word in Hayasaki's article has its place. What she succeeds in doing is to portray the full horror of the event, the immensity of the loss, the evil of the killer, and the love the students felt for their teacher, who was among the first to die.

But Couture did not die before warning her students, "Get in the back! Get under your desks! Call 911!"

Moments before, as the shots began sounding in Norris Hall, the 49-year-old French teacher had exclaimed, "Please tell me that isn't what I think it is." But when she went to the door to peek out, she turned back to the class, "white with terror."

There were 11 innocents shot to death, six wounded, and the mad killer committed suicide
in the next few minutes in Room 211. Only one person escaped unscathed. The story details exactly what happened and how in the words of those who survived.

And Hayasaki ends with the most beautiful passage in her entire long account, and perhaps in her entire career as a journalist, telling what took place at Couture funeral.
It deserves being long remembered.

"On Tuesday," she writes, "several of the classmates attended Madame Couture's funeral at the campus horticulture garden, a meadow by a rippling stream. Haas saw Violand. He was holding a white rose. She hugged him. They had not seen each other since that fateful class.

"A few minutes later, Goddard showed up in a wheelchair. Violand and Haas went over to him. Three other students from the French class joined them, including Luke Sponholz. who had missed class last Monday. His best friend was killed, and Madame Couture had been his favorite teacher.

"Before last week, they had been classmates, linked by their passionate professor. Now, they were friends, united in her death. It was a bittersweet bond that no one else could really understand.

"During the service, Violand bowed his head. Haas patted his back. They listened silently as Sponholz uttered these words in French on his classmates' behalf. "Madame, have you touched all of us in a profound way that we will never forget, and will we always love you?

"Mais oui, Madame. Mais oui."


If some at Virginia Tech know just what to say, and Hayasaki, assisted in preparing the article by Richard Fausset, knows just what to report, we see the spectacle this week of public figures and columnists wallowing in excessive remarks on the war and the Bush Administration.

I am thinking especially of Sen. Harry Reid, the U.S. Senate majority leader, who proclaimed that the Iraq war has already been lost, and Times Op Ed Page columnist Ron Brownstein, who wrote, "President "Bush has become the dead-ender."

Both men are being, at the very least, premature. The war is not lost as long as 160,000 brave Americans are fighting in it. And, if there is a new terrorist attack in the next few months, which there well may be, Mr. Bush will not look like a dead-ender. The country could yet rally behind him.

The senator and the columnist are ready to sell American interests in the present situation down the river. I believe they are both wrong. Washington Post columnist David Broder calls this morning for Reid's removal as majority leader, saying the Democrats deserve better.




Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home