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40 years later: The University of Texas Tower shootings.

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#1 KevinFromTexas


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Posted 01 August 2006 - 02:36 PM

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the University of Texas Tower shootings. On August 1, 1966, (my dad's 15th birthday), Charles Whitman an architectural engineering student at UT went to the tower's observation deck above the 29th floor. He shot 45 people killing 15. It was worst mass murder in US history at that time. Austin was just a small town of 150,000 back then and this completely caught the city by surprise. Both of my grandfathers were downtown that day. One of them was 10 blocks from the tower and saw the puffs of smoke from Whitmans rifle on the observation deck.

The last person to die from this shooting was a man from Fort Worth. He died in 2001 from complications from the shooting. A bullet passed through his kidney. The doctor's had planned to remove it but they found out that he didn't have a 2nd kidney to rely on. So he had to have surgery to repair it. For 3 decades he had to have kidney dialosis. In 2001 he died from complications from his condition from the shooting. The cause of death was listed as homocide.

I have such a hard time believing something like this could have happened in Austin. It's horrible. Loving Austin, skyscrapers and architecture as I do and having a soft spot for the tower, it's so hard to believe it happened. I can't imagine what that day must have been like.

Now, here is a TON of info I've been compiling this past week of the event all those years ago.




News 8 Austin news piece about the tower shootings.


News 8 Austin's main page of links about the tower shootings.

About Charles Whitman.

Whitman's weapons and supplies.

Whitman's suicide note.

The two police officers who killed Whitman.

Wikipedia article on Charles Whitman.

UT Tower page at Wikipedia.

History of the UT Tower. 12 people have jumped from the tower since 1945.

UT's page on the tower.

From News 8 Austin

UT Tower Shooting: What happened on Aug. 1, 1966
7/24/2006 5:00 AM
By: Paul Brown

At about 11:45 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 1, 1966, it was hot on the University of Texas campus.

About 96 degrees.

But other than that, nothing seemed unusual about that summer school day to newly elected student body president Cliff Drummond.

And then, shots broke the morning calm.

"As I was walking toward the Tower on the West Mall, I was hearing the reports of the rifle, but it was not clicking [in my head] what was going on," Drummond said.

Gunfire on a college campus? It didn't make sense. It didn't seem possible.

"There were some students along the south wall of the Texas Union Building and they were all standing hunkered down, next to the wall. And they were shouting at me," Drummond said.

KTBC reporter Neal Spelce was about to be involved in the biggest story of his career. At first it wasn�t obvious to police, bystanders or the media if there was more than one person shooting from the Tower.

"Nothing like this had ever occurred anywhere before! This wasn't an event where you said, �Oh, this is just like so and so� therefore you had a frame of reference. Everything was unfolding, new and fresh at the time amidst chaos, bullets, sirens, screaming, shots fired, people yelling. You were seeing people screaming, dodging and diving and hiding," Spelce said.

The only clear thing was that whoever was shooting from up there was an incredible shot.

The first victim from the Tower was the fetus of an 18-year-old pregnant student named Claire Wilson.

Dr. Robert Pape treated her at nearby Brackenridge Hospital. He said Wilson was hemorrhaging badly and would lose the baby because she had been shot in the abdomen, as if the killer wanted to deliberately harm the baby.

Wilson collapsed on the burning hot pavement, and as her boyfriend, Thomas Eckman, tried to help her, he was shot in the back and died instantly.

"Another coed came out and laid down next to Claire and stayed there the entire time. You see her in the newsreels, as soon as it's over, there are a number of people that rush out to try and help Claire Wilson. This coed stands up and walks away, and she has never made herself known to this day," Drummond said.

Drummond became a true leader that day as he and a friend tried to help as the gunfire erupted around them.

"As we ran across The Drag, he began to fire at us because he could see us at that point. The shots were close but into the pavement, and I remember feeling the pavement exploding around us," Drummond said.

They soon discovered one man they tried to help was already dead, but there were others who'd been hit, still alive in the sniper's sight. They helped move injured people to waiting ambulances. At the time, there was no EMS and the ambulances that arrived were from area funeral homes.

About 20 minutes into the attack, civilians started to arrive with deer rifles. They helped police return fire.

Austin police officer Ramiro Martinez ran toward the South Mall. He saw blood on the sidewalk. He'd later learn it was the blood of friend and fellow officer Billy Speed. A shot aimed right through a narrow space between concrete balusters ended the officer's young life.

"I looked, and I could see dead people, wounded people, and I could never forget the pregnant woman there just squirming in the hot sun, you know. And I could see them all out there. And I knew that if I stopped to help anybody, or drag them out, that I'd probably be another casualty. So I said, 'I'd come here for one purpose, and that's to try and get the sniper,' " Martinez said.

Pistol in hand, Martinez made his way up the Tower. The elevator let him out on the 27th floor, where Officer Jerry Day and a citizen named Alan Crum had arrived minutes earlier.

"And one man came out. He had a pair of white women's shoes. They had blood on them, and he said, 'Let me have your gun,' he said, 'He killed my whole family.' And so we had a little wrestling match with him there, to restrain him," Martinez said.

That man was M.J. Gabour. Four members of his family had been shot, two of them fatally. The Gabours � father M.J., wife Mary, and sons Mike and Mark � were visiting Austin from Texarkana with M.J.�s sister Marguerite and her husband, William Lamport.

Mark and Marguerite were found dead, one of the first victims inside the Tower.

As Martinez and Crum headed to the top floor, Martinez found out Crum was a civilian and quickly deputized him. They had to step over the bodies to make their way up to the Tower's observation deck. Down below, armed citizens shot back with their deer rifles, offering resistance to the shots fired from above.

"He was running to all four sides of the Tower, he was leaning over, he was shooting. He was killing people, wounding people. Then after a while, the fire started to be returned to the Tower, so he was dodging and ducking and crawling around and all," Spelce said.

Martinez and Crum were soon joined by APD Officer Houston McCoy, who had just made his way to the top carrying a shotgun. When the three finally arrived on the observation deck, they still didn't know how many shooters they were about to face. They also had to dodge the fire sent back up from the citizens below.

"They must have seen my head, or something, because all of a sudden about three splats went above my head," McCoy remembered.

The three spotted a man wearing a white bandana, cornered him, and fired.

About five seconds and it was all over with. And so when he was dead, I started hollering, waving the shotgun, 'Stop shooting!' Of course, nobody could hear me," Martinez said.

Ninety-six minutes after the first shot from the Tower, McCoy and Martinez ended the terror. Fourteen people were dead, and more than 30 were wounded. A quiet calm of death took over the campus as police removed bodies from the Tower.

"There were probably 1,500 to 2,000 people gathered around, waiting, being totally silent. It was only very low talk. It was eerily quiet, and it was incredibly hot," Drummond said.

As crowds gathered below the Tower to assess the aftermath, the setting for pep rallies and graduation ceremonies was transformed into a scene of unbelievable carnage.

And one question had an answer. The shots fired came from a lone gunman.

His name: Charles Whitman, a name that would forever be associated with the Tower that had been his co-star in a deadly drama for 96 minutes.

From News 8 Austin

Remembering UT's darkest day
7/23/2006 11:13 AM
By: News 8 Austin Staff

On Aug. 1, 1966, the University of Texas and the city of Austin experienced its darkest day.

On that hot summer day, a 25-year-old student and former Marine by the name of Charles Whitman went to the top of the UT Tower and began shooting. Forty-five people were shot, and 13 of them died that day. At the time, it was the worst mass murder in U.S. history.

Starting Monday, News 8 Austin explores what happened with a five-part series that culminates to an hour-long special that will begin airing Sunday, July 30.

And this week on newsstands, Texas Monthly's cover story examines that day.

News 8 Austin�s Paul Brown sat down with Texas Monthly senior editor Pamela Colloff for a preview of their coverage.

Q: Pamela, how did you approach your unique coverage of the anniversary of the Tower shooting?

A: This is probably the most famous crime that�s happened in Austin history, and much of it has been covered in terms of the chronology of what happened. I was interested in hearing the voices of the people who were there. This was a crime that had hundreds of eyewitnesses, which is very unusual. Most of them had never been interviewed, and I wanted to hear their stories. This was put together in an oral history format so that we could hear people�s voices who were there.

Q: How many people did you find to interview?

A: There are almost 40 people in the piece. The list I began with was almost twice that, but it was difficult to track down a lot of people after 40 years. So this is really the tip of the iceberg but there�s a lot of fascinating material in there that people haven�t heard or read before.

Q: Did you find your interviewees remember all the details of their experience?

A: They fell into two groups. Some people had told these stories over and over again � some of the easier stories in the piece. Other people had never spoken since that day about what had happened because it was such a difficult day. They watched friends or loved ones die or be injured in front of them. So for many of them it was a very emotional experience. There were some tears in the interview and I think that comes across in the story.

Q: What struck you as you spoke to all these people?

A: I was really struck by just how different Austin was. Forty years ago doesn�t seem like that long ago. But there was no EMS, there was no team that the police could send out to try to deal with Whitman, and there was just an innocence in this town. That�s what it was then. Nine-eleven hadn�t happened yet, Columbine hadn�t happened yet � This was the first mass murder in a public space outside of wartime. This was an introduction to people to some of the terrible things that have come in the years that followed.


7/24/2006 5:00 AM
By: News 8 Austin Staff

List of victims (in chronological order)

1. Margaret Whitman
Charles� mother. Stabbed to death.

2. Kathy Whitman
Charles� 23-year-old wife. Stabbed to death while sleeping.

3. Edna Townsley
Forty-seven-year-old receptionist at the UT Tower. Whitman�s first Tower victim was shot in the reception are of the observation deck.

4. Mark Gabour
Sixteen-year-old nephew of Marguerite Lamport (fifth victim.) Gabour was visiting the Tower with family. His mother and brother were critically injured, and his father and uncle were not.

5. Marguerite Lamport
Visiting Austin from San Antonio with family. She and her nephew, Mark Gabour, died instantly.

6. Unborn child of a woman eight months' pregnant

7. Thomas Eckman
Was shot while trying to help his wounded girlfriend, Claire Wilson, who was eight months' pregnant when Whitman shot her in the hip area and killed the unborn child.

8. Robert Hamilton Boyer
UT math professor. Stopped by campus on his way out of town when he was shot in the back.

9. Thomas Ashton
Twenty-two-year-old Californian about to go teach English in Iran. Shot in the chest.

10. David Gunby
Electrical engineering major, 23. Wounds left him with lifelong kidney problems. When he died in 2001, the cause of death was listed as homicide.

11. Karen Griffin
Student at Lanier High School, where Kathy Whitman taught. She died one week later at Brackenridge Hospital.

12. Thomas Karr
Twenty-four-year-old student attending UT for the summer and an ex-serviceman like Whitman. Shot in the back.

13. Officer Billy Speed
Twenty-three-year-old colleague of Austin police officers McCoy and Martinez. Shot in the chest trying to take down Whitman.

14. Harry Walchuk
Age 38. Ph.D. student at UT and father of six. He had walked to Guadalupe (the Drag) from the library to buy a magazine when he was shot.

15. Paul Sonntag
Austin High School graduate, age 18, hanging out on the Drag with his girlfriend, Claudia Rutt. Planned to attend college in Colorado. Shot in the mouth.

16. Claudia Rutt
Austin High School graduate, age 18, who planned to attend Texas Christian University. Shot in the left side of her chest.

17. Roy Dell Schmidt
Twenty-nine-year-old city of Austin electrician. Shot in the abdomen 500 yards away from the Tower.

1. Allen, John Scott
2. Ehlke, Roland
3. Esparza, Avelino
4. Evganides, Ellen
5. Harvey, Nancy
6. Garbour, Mary Frances
7. Garcia, Irma
8. Heard, Robert
9. Hernandez, Alex
10. Hohmann, Morris
11. Huffman, Devereau Matlin
12. Kelley, Homer
13. Khashab, Abdul
14. Littlefield, Adrian
15. Littlefield, Brenda
16. Martinez, Della
17. Martinez, Marina
18. Mattson, David
19. Ortega, Delores
20. Paulos, Janet
21. Phillips, Lana
22. Royvela, Oscar
23. Snowden, Billy
24. Wilson, Claire
25. Wilson, Sandra (no relation to Claire)
26. Wheeler, Carla Sue

Source: Lavergne, Gary. "A Sniper in the Tower."

The UT Tower this past January as UT won the Rose Bowl. The area on the tower where Whitman was is directly below the clock faces on the outdoor observation deck above the 27th floor. The observation deck was closed in 1974 due to 9 suicides by people jumping from the observation deck from 1966 to 1974. In all, 12 people have jumped from the tower since 1945. In 1999 the observation deck was reopened. The deck was surrounded by a steel cage structure.
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#2 KevinFromTexas


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Posted 01 August 2006 - 02:39 PM

From the Austin American-Statesman

Book store to donate files from UT Tower sniper shootings

Records from former UT security chief will be handed over on Aug. 1

By Laura Heinauer
Thursday, July 27, 2006

Christian Kurtz, a used book buyer at Half Price Books in Austin, is used to finding all sorts of strange and unique things in the boxes people bring into his North Lamar store.

Nothing, however, could have prepared Kurtz for what he found in the files of Allen Hamilton, who was chief of security for the University of Texas in 1966, when Charles Whitman went on a shooting spree atop the UT Tower.

Whitman, a former Marine, used a high-powered rifle and other firearms to kill 14 people — not counting a victim who died from his wounds in 2001 — and injure dozens of others. He had earlier stabbed his wife and mother in their homes.

"It was all very creepy . . . sent chills up my spine," Kurtz said of the files, which included everything from crime scene drawings to a letter written by Whitman explaining why he killed his wife and mother prior to opening fire from the tower.

There were photos of corpses and papers from the investigation that included a copy of Whitman's confession about killing his mother, dated Aug. 1, 1966.

"I had to keep taking breaks from it," Kurtz said.

Bookstore officials would not name who sold the documents or say how much the store paid for the materials, which were brought in by one of Hamilton's relatives last year. They will be donated to UT's Center for American History on Tuesday, the 40th anniversary of the shootings.

"We get a lot of oddball items, but this was one of the stranger ones," said Steve Leach, who oversees used merchandise buying at Half Price Books. "We though it was important that they end up in the right place and not just disseminated to individual buyers."

The company says many of the documents, including lists of the victims and handwritten statements and notes by UT security officers, are originals. But many of them— including letters and a diary in which Whitman detailed his spending habits — were photocopied. It's unclear, officials said, whether there is anything in the files that isn't already available publicly.

Don Carleton, director of the Center for American History, said he has not seen the materials and is not sure whether they will bring anything new to light. Many original documents related to the crime can be found at the Austin History Center. In addition, the UT center houses materials donated by Gary Lavergne, author of "A Sniper in the Tower."

"It appears as though there would be a lot of replication there, but I don't want to sound as if we don't think it could be important," Carleton said. "We certainly wouldn't turn anything down and would want anything that could be good resource material for studying that tragic event."

Kurtz, 37, said he learned about the Whitman shooting in school but came away from his examination of the files with new insight into the crime.

The notes, scribbled in haste, reveal the chaos of the day, Kurtz said.

Other information — including Whitman's psychiatric evaluation and parking tickets — gave Kurtz insight into the scope of the investigation. It was unclear whether other documents detailing surveillance operations conducted on underground campus organizations were directly related to the Whitman case, he said, but they gave insight into the tenor of the time.

"On the one hand, while much of what we found was shocking," Kurtz said, "some of it really gave a snapshot of what was going on."

Items thought to be originals

•Letters and memos to Charles Whitman regarding UT traffic regulation violations.

•Handwritten notes from officers about response to shootings.

•Brackenridge Hospital's lists of victims.

•Drawing of the 27th and 28th floor of the UT Tower with victims' bodies.

•Photographs of the crime scene and victims.

•Typed letter to UT Chief of Security Allen Hamilton from Hazelett Strip-Casting Corp. recommending changes to UT Tower parapet design; also drawings of the observation deck with notes.

Charles Whitman files

Among the original and copied documents to be donated by Half Price Books to the University of Texas:

Copied documents

•Note written by Whitman: "THOUGHTS TO START THE DAY," dated Aug. 1, 1966 — "I never could quite make it. These thoughts are too much for me. CJW."

•Whitman's confession about killing his mother, dated Aug. 1, 1966.

•Whitman's diary, Nov. 1963 to Feb. 1964, from Marine Camp LeJeune, N.C., detailing his court-martial, marksmanship records, pay records, etc.

•A handwritten note by Whitman: "To slip would be so easy." •Whitman's UT employment application.

•A note from Whitman asking for an autopsy to determine whether he had a brain tumor.

Source: Half Price Books

More coverage from the Austin American-Statesman including photos and more articles.

Front page of the Austin American-Statesman on August 2, 1966.

From the Austin American-Statesman

Accounts by people who were there that day, and others who commented on the tradegy.

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Kelly West

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When the Tower reopened, a fence was built around the observation deck to prevent suicides. Jackson Cox, 16, below, takes in the view by snapping a photo with his cell phone.

Tom Lankes
1966 UPI
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Charlotte Darehshori hid behind the base of a flag pole for almost an hour and a half to avoid Charles Whitman's gunfire.
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The forgetting: 40 years later, the story of the Tower sniper has grown hazy at UT

Shootings are part of the secret campus history

By Sarah Frank
Tuesday, August 01, 2006

It's the story everyone knows about — sort of.

Forty years ago today a 25-year-old man with a blond crew cut stood high above Austin and forever embedded himself in the history of one of the most prominent elements of the city's skyline — the University of Texas Tower.

Now, a generation has passed. Few of the tens of thousands of UT students give much thought to the fact they are the same ages as the majority of the people Charles Whitman shot from the Tower's observation deck on Aug. 1, 1966. The campus death toll was 13 murdered and 31 wounded.

But for many, the extent of their knowledge of what happened four decades ago is sketchy at best: "A guy went to the top of the Tower and shot a bunch of people," they say. Matter of fact. As if it happens every day.

"It's kind of like gossip here," says Jieni Li, a 20-year-old UT student from Houston. "When you're a freshman and you walk by the Tower for the first time, it's kind of tradition that someone will tell you."

The story of that bloody day is passed through campus like a decades-long game of telephone: Did you hear? Did you know? If anything, the references to Whitman in popular culture have increased, not diminished, over time. And the Internet has breathed new life into the legend. There's a Charles Whitman profile on the social networking Web site Myspace.com; Wikipedia hosts a long entry on the Whitman murders; the stereotype of a man with a gun in a tower has been depicted in movies (briefly in "Parenthood," a 1989 Steve Martin comedy) and television shows ("The Simpsons," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "King of the Hill"). The 1975 made-for-TV movie "The Deadly Tower," starring Kurt Russell as Whitman, occasionally pops up for sale on eBay.

"They mention Whitman in the movie 'Natural Born Killers,' " said Mike Stafford, a 33-year-old UT student from Austin. "That's probably the first I remember hearing about him and what he did."

Until nine years ago, no book had been written as a complete history of the Whitman murders. There are some television documentaries. They usually air about this time every 10 years.

There is no memorial, although the university says it is working to change that. It's not a part of campus tours or even Tower tours. But if you ask, the student tour guides will point out the spot in the limestone wall where the bullet that killed Whitman supposedly lodged.

That's not true: Whitman was felled by shotgun blasts, not a bullet. But it's part of the folklore that endures in the absence of any formal way to learn about what really happened that day and its effect on the university community.

Wanting to forget

In the weeks, months and years after the Tower shootings, there was a strong, collective urge to move on. The tragedy was a terrible blow to the image of a university that had dreams of becoming the Harvard of the South. Both students and the administration did not want to let one man ruin what they felt had been a positive symbol of the school in the years prior to Whitman.

Perhaps that's why there has been little more than quiet acknowledgement of those who died or were wounded by Whitman.

Flags went to half-staff the day after the shootings and have been lowered every Aug. 1, but there is no formal announcement of the reason. There was one major memorial service, held at University Baptist Church in 1996, the 30th anniversary. That day the Tower bells rang 16 times, once for each of Whitman's victims, including the unborn child of wounded student Claire Wilson, and Whitman's mother and wife, whom he killed before heading to the Tower. Only once, in 1999, the Tower was darkened in memory of Whitman's victims.

"UT did the same thing a lot of communities do after tragedy," said James Pennebaker, a UT psychology professor. "They do everything they can to not think about it, to not commemorate it, to think about the future and not the past and to dismiss it as something that was an aberration.

"It's not until the next generation comes along that has enough psychological distance to say, 'This is an important part of the psychological history of the university that we need to commemorate it.' "

"Memory depends on generations, and generations pass away," said Rosa Eberly, a former assistant English professor at UT who taught a class in the late 1990s that focused on how people thought about the Tower through the years. The class created a now-defunct Web site as an online memorial. "Some people say the university was depending on the knowledge of this to pass (away) through generations."

Not until the 30th anniversary of the shootings approached was there any official discussion of a campus memorial to the victims. At the time, people worried an effort to memorialize the victims would feel like a depressing gravestone or a shrine to Whitman.

"I don't think there was ever any intent of the institution not wanting to remember all the victims," said Shirley Bird Perry, who was on campus on Aug. 1, 1966 and is now senior vice president at UT. "But as far as a physical place, there was probably a little denial."

In 1999, former UT President Larry Faulkner officially dedicated the "Tower Garden" — an algae-ridden turtle pond between the old botany building and the Tower — as a future spot for a memorial. But UT, which collects $18 million annually through the Longhorn Foundation for its athletic programs, failed to raise the estimated $800,000 to revamp the garden area.

In a new effort to raise money for a memorial, the university launched a Web site in May that allows people to buy e-Tributes, online Web pages honoring loved ones, starting at $100. The money earned from e-Tributes (only visible at www.utexas. edu/etribute) will go toward the eventual update of the Tower Garden, Perry said.

The lure of the Tower

The Tower deck, where Whitman was perched for 96 minutes during his killing spree, long remained a forbidden place on campus. Before Whitman, the observation deck was open to the public. In 1974, the deck was closed after several suicides. It remained off limits for 25 years.

"If you were an undergrad in the late '90s, the Tower had been closed off before you were born," said Jim Dedman, a 1998 graduate and former associate editor of The Daily Texan, UT's student newspaper. "You'd see it every day and you'd hear all the rumors and stories, but you couldn't go up there."

In 1999, Faulkner worked with students on a plan to reopen the Tower deck following safety modifications including a fencelike structure to prevent people from falling or jumping from the Tower and the addition of metal detectors and police guards.

"It fundamentally wasn't healthy to have people always talking about that moment in history (the Whitman shootings) whenever they were around the Tower," Faulkner said in a recent interview. "I just felt the university community needed to get past having that as a main topic of conversation and I didn't think it would be possible unless people reopened the observation deck and took away the forbiddance."

Today, Tower tours are offered several times a day and are led by student guides. Charles Locke, Tower tour coordinator, said the campus landmark is popular among tourists, but adds, "This tour is not the Charles Whitman tour and it's not going to be the Whitman tour." Still, he says he encourages guides to be knowledgeable about the shootings because the topic comes up.

"Every time I've worked a tour, there has been a Charles Whitman question," said Cassie Williams, a 20-year-old tour guide from Plano. "The number one question I'm asked is, 'Where are the bullet holes?' We'll show them if they ask."

And ask they do.

On a recent Saturday afternoon tour, 40-year-old Cindy Knapp was visiting from Houston when she pulled Williams aside.

"I came to learn about Charles Whitman," she said. "I want to see the bullet holes. I'm surprised I'm the only one asking."

Not able to forget

For hundreds, maybe thousands of people who were near the Tower that day, there's no need to ask.

Many were not much more than kids then. Crossing campus in the noontime heat between summer classes, going to lunch, sitting in the shade. Wearing white cotton T-shirts and blue jeans, or summer dresses with hair teased and flipped.

Forrest Preece, 20 at the time, was paying for burgers and Cokes at a drug store on Guadalupe Street at about 11:55 a.m. when the cashier warned him and his lunch buddies: "You boys better not go out there; somebody's shooting a gun."

"We said, 'Yeah right,' " Preece recently recalled. "This was way before Columbine or anything else like that, before people started 'going postal' as the terminology is now." David Orton, an apprentice embalmer and funeral director for Cook (now Cook-Walden) Funeral Home, was a week shy of his 23rd birthday when he stopped into work on his day off to pick up a paycheck and heard of the sniper in the Tower. He jumped into an ambulance in the garage of the funeral home and sped to 19th Street (now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) where a police officer hiding beneath a tree flagged him down and directed him to the bodies.

"There was a really bad communication problem that day. Nobody had two-way radios, of course, nobody had cell phones, and there was a big problem of trying to get everybody to where they were supposed to be to pick people up who had been shot."

The first person Orton took to Brackenridge Hospital was police officer Billy Speed, 22, who was killed by Whitman's bullet while running past the Jefferson Davis statue that stands at the southwest corner of the mall. When Orton returned to the funeral home at the end of the day, it was his job to embalm Whitman.

James Ayres was a young English professor, 33, teaching a class in what's now called Parlin Hall, facing the South Mall. When another professor came in to warn someone was shooting from the Tower, the students all ran to the windows.

"The first thing that occurs to you in something like this," Ayres said, "is it's just not believable. Completely unbeliev- able."

Every once in a while a student will ask him about the shootings.

"Not very often anymore," he said. "The current students don't really know about it or aren't really curious about it. It seems like when Aug. 1 turns, I seem to remember the day and I thought about it a lot when the university opened the observation deck. It made me nervous."

There was a time when many, if not most people in Austin, associated the Tower with its darkest day. With every year that goes by, fewer do. But the Tower has an iconic power that's hard to ignore.

"At the time it was just another day," said Orton, now 62. "But it made me aware. If I look at the Tower, I remember.

"It still puts a little fear in me. People look at the Tower when it's lit burnt orange and think of victory; I look at the Tower and I think of Whitman up there."


Letters by Whitman and other documents.



Video - be sure and watch this video. It's very informative of the incident.

#3 seurto


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Posted 01 August 2006 - 03:41 PM

Hey, Kevinfromtexas - that is all very interesting! I've not had a chance to hit every link yet, but did watch the video from the last link - fascinating, amazing, tragic shakehead.gif . Thanks for posting all of this, I do plan to explore it all. I remember when that happened, I was 10 years old and we watched it all on TV - unbelievable.

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