Appalachian School of Law Shootings
       

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Thu, 17 Jan 2002

Shootings leave mark on Virginia town

Cassandra Perry
The Associated Press State & Local Wire

An AP Opinion Exchange

Delta Democrat Times

While working at my desk on Wednesday, I turned around to take a peek at the television and saw a very familiar name come flashing across the screen.

I looked closer, and staring me back in the face were the words “school shooting.”

But this particular act of aggression struck close to home. The phenomenon of school shootings became all too real for me when I saw on the national news, “School shooting in Grundy, Va.”

The shooting occurred at the Appalachian School of Law about mid-afternoon on Wednesday. Six people were shot and three were killed, including L. Anthony Sutin, dean of the law school.

Grundy, a small town nestled in the Appalachians mountains, is literally in my backyard. I can remember going there in high school to watch football games and to play basketball.

With a traveling distance of less than 30 minutes from my hometown of Pound, Va., to Grundy the reality of this type of senseless violence came a little too close.

I guess I naively believed the isolation of my mountain home was a shelter from the reality of this violence.

Even though I now live in Greenville in the bucolic Mississippi Delta, Pound will always be my home and I will forever be an Appalachian.

We are a close-knit group of people who have been stereotyped over the years by the news media as violent and uneducated.

Make no mistake, this area of the nation which I called home is certainly no backwater.

But it wasn’t one of us who committed this unspeakable deed. It wasn’t an Appalachian who picked up the gun and started randomly shooting people because of a bad grade.

A foreign exchange student, reportedly a Nigerian, committed these horrible murders.

Anchorman Shepherd Smith of the Fox News Channel said surely this event would have an impact on such a small community.

It is true, this event will affect Grundy.

In a town like Grundy, any loss of life is a huge deal because everyone knows each other well. It’s family, so to speak.

However, a great loss of life is something we’ve been through many times before.

Many men have died a mile or more back in a mountain. Coal mine explosions or roof cave-ins have claimed the lives of men, sometimes 10 or more at a time. So, death and tragedy is not alien to us.

And the community displays that human resiliency and always manages to come together to help out their family, neighbors and friends.

I know losing men in a coal mine shaft isn’t the same as violence, but we’ve had our share of that as well. Union violence plagued the Appalachians for years. Nonetheless, violence toward each other is not prevalent in our small close-knit communities.

Still, this is different. As a human being, I feel for the families of the victims of these murders.

As an Appalachian, my heart goes out to them even more. I know the community will rebound, pull together and get through this tragedy.

We Appalachians are a strong and proud people who, despite stereotypes, have learned to face adversity head on, and overcome it.

To the victims of this shooting and to the people of Grundy and its surrounding communities; God bless you. Even though this Appalachian woman is nearly a thousand miles away, she is with you in spirit.

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