It Was Forty Years Ago Today

From Holden:

I was four years old. We had lived in Austin a little over a year, having moved from my native San Antonio so my father could pursue his PhD at The University of Texas. On that particular Monday my mother, siblings and I were visiting my paternal grandparents in San Antonio while my father was studying in a library adjacent to the tower Charles Whitman scaled to unleash his Marine-trained anger on the world, introducing America to SWAT teams and random mass murder in public places.

My memories of the massacre are vague, I remember watching the event play out live on a black and white TV while the adults around me exhibitted an anxiety I could not grasp. I remember a neighbor explaining that she had been on a city bus that sweltering day and thought it strange when she looked out a window to see a “kid fall off his bike for no reason at all”, only to learn that the blonde architecture student had put a sniper’s bullet in his hip. I remember the name Billy Speed without knowing the significance of that name until recently reading that he was the Austin police officer gunned down by a miraculous shot through a ballustrade several hundred yards from the sniper’s nest.

I remember touring the tower observation deck a year or so after the event and putting my fingers in the bullet holes left by the deer rifles of students and citizens hoping for a lucky shot, holes had been filled with plaster before my most recent visit this past spring.

I recently discovered that one of my former coworkers had been at the tower that day with a girl he met at a bus station, they left the observation deck and stepped over a pool of blood he took to be floor wax while asking a well-armed Whitman if he had come to shoot pigeons.