...and everything after.

Immediate Reactions

In a one-hour television special immediately following the shootings, the president of the university praised students and passersby for their bravery. People ran out into Whitman¹s line of fire to retreive fallen victims from the hot pavement of the South Mall. Classes were canceled the next day, and the flags flew at half-mast. The observation deck was closed for a period of two years, but then reopened. The deck was permanently closed in 1975 by the UT Board of Regents, at the request of the president of UT Austin. Yet another student had jumped to his death, bringing the total number of suicides from the top of the tower to 7.

Attempts to Reopen the Observation Deck

The view from the top of the tower has been unanimously acclaimed as breathtakingly beautiful. Several student groups have tried to have the tower reopened, and in a 1988 survey, 88% of students said they supported reopening the tower. 78% would be willing to pay higher fees for the increased security which would be needed. Even people directly involved with the shootings would like to see the deck reopened. E. Burton Gelding was on the police force that day. He shot at Whitman. Robert Heard was a reporter that day. He was shot and wounded by Whitman. Both of them would like the reopening of the deck.

But administration officials doubt that the deck will ever be opened. Safety problems remain an issue, and plans to retrofit the deck with barriers of Plexiglas or metal mesh have been rejected. Some would have cost too much or were impractical for other reasons. Any modification would detract from the aesthetic image of the tower. Then there is the issue of traffic: the tower is now used as on office building, and the workers there fear that the stream of sightseers would interfere with their work. The building's ancient elevator is hard-pressed to keep up with its workload now; it is doubtful that it could handle the increased strain.

Official UT Reaction

Although it would be part of the procedure today, at the time the University did not contact any of the victims' families. Lana Holloway was shot in the shoulder by Whitman. She told us that she was never contacted by administration officials, but that all of her professors were extremely supportive of her. She told us that a collection was taken up to help with the medical costs of those who were wounded in the shootings.

University officials worked with the University Baptist Church's "Prayers for Healing From Violence" program, and at midday on the 30th anniversary of the shootings the 17-bell tower carillon rang once for each of the victims. The flags flew at half-mast, and a short service was held on the steps of the University Baptist Church, across the street from the campus. The church's pastor, Rev. Larry Bethune, explained "This is not in any way a celebration, but a recognition of the value of those lives that were lost."

To this day there exists no marker on the University soil, no explanation in the tours of campus. The administration would just like to forget about what happened on that day.

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This document was created by:
Wesley Forni forndog@mail.utexas.edu and Star Gebser stargebser@mail.utexas.edu.
This site was last modified on December 2, 1996.