91影视

Assange over the years Flying spiders explained Honor all requests?
NEWS
University of Texas

UT-Austin remembers tower shooting 50 years ago

Rick Jervis
91影视

AUSTIN 鈥斅燘ells from the tower at the University of Texas-Austin rang at precisely 11:40聽a.m. Monday, signaling an聽Army color guard to lower flags to half-staff聽and a bagpiper to play,聽as聽several hundred people moved silently past the tower.

Claire Wilson Jones, right, was an 18-year-old student when she was shot by the sniper during the 1966 UT tower shooting. On Monday, she attended the memorial service, 50 years to the day.

At this time 50 years ago, Charles Whitman, a UT engineering student and former Marine, made his way to the top of the 307-foot tower and began firing down at students and passersby with high-powered rifles, killing 17 people and injuring聽31 in what became known as the first mass murder of its kind in 91影视 history.

The university on Monday unveiled a memorial to the victims 鈥斅燼 large chunk of polished stone etched with the names of those killed.

鈥淚t鈥檚 not the stone that we dedicate but ourselves,鈥 said Claire Wilson Jones, who was an 18-year-old pregnant student when she was shot near the tower. She survived but lost her baby, and her boyfriend walking next to her was killed. 鈥淭reasure the ones we walk with now, each moment.鈥

50 years ago, Texas campus murders ushered in new reality of mass shootings

The day took a surreal twist when topless protesters gathered near the solemn service and聽held signs opposing the new 鈥渃ampus carry鈥 law that went into effect Monday. The state聽law now allows license holders to carry concealed handguns at public universities, including UT-Austin. The new聽rule has been hotly debated in Austin, with several professors recently filing a complaint in federal court to block the law before classes begin later this month.

One of the protesters, Phyllis Masters, 48, said she found it offensive that the law would go into effect the same day of the anniversary of the tower shooting. She decided to go topless to draw attention to the issue, she said.

鈥淒id we learn nothing?鈥 Masters聽said. 鈥淔ifty years later, and we鈥檙e putting people in danger again.鈥

But most聽of Monday's focus was centered on memorializing the shooting victims and survivors. Families of survivors attended, along with current faculty and students and survivors of the incident.

A member of the University of Texas Police Honor Guard stands at the ready before a ceremony honoring victims of the 1966 UT tower shooting.

Whitman had killed his mother and wife on the morning of Aug. 1, 1966, before unleashing a barrage of bullets from the top of the tower. The shooting lasted聽96 minutes, as police and university officials, thoroughly unprepared for a mass shooting, grappled with how to stop the rampage.

Student Mary Jo North hid in the music building during the shooting and survived. She witnessed bleeding bodies being ferried away, images that have stuck with her for five decades. After the shooting, there were no counseling services or memorials, and people barely spoke of the terror that had engulfed their campus, she said.

鈥淭here was never any closure,鈥 said North, now 71, who traveled from Argyle, Texas, just north of Fort Worth, to attend the ceremony. 鈥淚鈥檓 looking to this for closure.鈥

Under a tent in the sweltering heat, university President Gregory Fenves led the ceremony, which included remarks by officials, poem readings and musical reflections. As the bell tower rang 17 times, the names of the 17 victims were read aloud. The tower's clock will remain at 11:48 鈥斅爐he time the shooting started 鈥斅爁or 24 hours. The tower's clock has been stopped only聽once before: to mark the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack.

After the ceremony, relatives of the victims knelt next to the stone memorial, touching the etched names of their lost loved ones.

Andrew Gershoff, a UT marketing professor, said he was compelled聽to attend because the incident is a 鈥渞eal sad part of history at the University of Texas. It deserves to be remembered.鈥

Also attending was Ramiro 鈥淩ay鈥 Martinez, the Austin police officer who shot and killed Whitman, ending聽the shooting spree.

鈥淚 wanted to be here for those that died,鈥 he said. 鈥淪o I could live my life for them.鈥

Contributing:聽Alex Samuels, a聽University of Texas-Austin student and 91影视 College correspondent.

Featured Weekly Ad