Fifty Years Later: 1996 Editorial

Editor's note: Reprinted below is the original editorial from the Aug. 1, 1996 print edition of The Daily Texan.

Thirty years. Somehow, the horror of Aug. 1, 1966, won’t fade. We wish the families well who lost loved ones to Whitman. We hope that time and new generations have assuaged your pain; we know you will never heal entirely.

It’s sadly appropriate UT’s darkest anniversary comes as America is besieged by domestic terrorism. Thirty years ago, Whitman’s violence surprised and scared the nation so deeply it was the Associated Press’ No. 2 story of the year – surpassed only by Vietnam.

During the weeks that followed, students wrote to The Texan, crying out in disbelief: How could one of their own kill so many, so indiscriminately? After all, UT students were unified against common enemies: the North Vietnamese and the U.S. government, for forcing their peers to war.

Texas, like many other states, never anticipated a criminal such as Whitman. In the killing spree’s wake, SWAT teams were formed nationwide.

Thirty years later, separatist militias, deranged domestic terrorists and violent crime no longer surprise us. TWA and Centennial Park only further numb us; violence is part of our culture.

It is in this dark climate that UT administration considers proposals to re-open the Tower. When it was permanently closed, nine years after Whitman, it was in response to several students committing suicide by jumping off the observation deck. At the time, The Texan begged administrators to close the deck. Now, we push to reopen it.

Why? Because it is an important step to ending this chapter in the University’s history.

We respectfully acknowledge all the reasons to keep the Tower closed, the most powerful one expressed succinctly by UT police officer Laurie Hartson:

“When I hear that [the Tower could be reopened], my insides just shake. … Even with guards watching, you don’t know whether the student would jump. … I don’t want that responsibility on my shoulders.”

Due to the seriousness of such concerns, reopening the Tower will be a slow process. We need to get started now. The Team Tower proposal is valuable. Some considerations have yet to be adequately addressed, such as the stress additional student traffic would put on the Tower elevators, and the Main Building’s questionable structural integrity. These are significant obstacles. It could take years, even a decade to overcome them. But it needs to happen.

The Tower was then, and is still a tribute to the 40 Acres’ splendor.

Nothing compares to the pride we feel when the Tower glows burnt orange. It broadcasts the amazing accomplishments of the University of Texas at Austin to the world.

Reopening the Tower could finally wash the tragic stains off our University’s grandest landmark.