Thursday, February 10, 2005

I don't like Mondays * 

I gave my grad school alma mater an email address so that the architecture school could send me its online newsletter, which occasionally brings word of someone I know. Now that the University has said address, it bombards me with email, most of which I delete without reading. However, yesterday's subject line Limited Edition Dinner Set intrigued me. I opened the email... and was stunned.

These dishes are emblazoned with a photo of the UT Tower, site of one of the worst mass murders in this country. On Monday, August 1, 1966, UT student Charles Whitman took five guns and 700 rounds of ammunition to the UT Tower. He had already killed his wife and mother, and he killed three people on his way to the observation deck at the top of the tower. Once there, he began shooting, killing ten more people and wounding many others before policemen shot and killed him.

I was two months shy of my 6th birthday, and one month away from starting first grade in Houston. The Tower Massacre is the first news event that I remember, although I certainly didn't comprehend it at the time. By the time that I arrived at UT for grad school, the Tower's observation deck - also the site of several suicides - had been closed. Nevertheless, there were times while crossing the south mall beneath the Tower that I was very much aware that this had been a killing ground.

I wonder now, looking at the photo on this dinnerware, whose idea it was to put the UT Tower on a Limited Edition Dinner Set. I have to think that it was someone young enough not to have the same horrific associations with the Tower that I have.

* "I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day." -- This was the statement given by 16-year-old Brenda Spencer about why she opened fire on an elementary school in San Diego on Monday, January 29, 1979, killing two school employees and injuring several children. As Charles Whitman did not leave an explanation for his actions, no one knows what was going through his mind. I can't imagine that it would have made any more sense to me than Brenda's "explanation."