The horrific recent mass shooting of 12 people at Building 2 at the government complex in Virginia Beach and its tragic aftermath has entangled a community in the stark realities of life-changing events, hauntingly recalling similar past dreadful killings.
Retired journalist Thomas P. Kapsidelis’ recent book is a vivid reminder of the depth and scope of the terrible mass shooting 12 years ago at Virginia Tech that created a dramatic change in the way safety on college campus is coped with and how the aftermath of such a life-altering event is managed.
Kapsidelis, a former Richmond Times-Dispatch editor, quit his job in 2016 to write “After Virginia Tech: Guns, Safety, and Healing in the Era of Mass Shootings” (University of Virginia Press, 272 pgs. $29.95), putting those events in Blacksburg into perspective.
To be transparent, Richmonder Kapsidelis was one of my editors at the RTD many years ago, and he was superb. His writing is equally outstanding. In his book, Kapsidelis uses his newspaper expertise — reporting and editing — to fashion a saga worthy of the memory of those 27 students and five faculty members murdered on April 16, 2007.
Virginia residents involved in some way with the May 30 Virginia Beach shooting would find it appropriate to read Kapsidelis’ book, because it provides an insightful assessment of mass shootings within the context of other such tragedies.
Looking at the massacre through the eyes of survivors and community, Kapsidelis examines those who craved gun safety reforms, campus safety modifications, as well as mental health and trauma management. To add to its depth, Kapsidelis interviewed survivors of other mass shootings, including the University of Texas tower in 1966.
I cannot describe this book any better than The Kirkus Reviews magazine: the Kapsidelis book was “well-researched and clearly written, [the] book’s major accomplishment is the author’s exploration of the healing process. Too many accounts of murderous rampages fail to offer long-term insights into the trauma faced by survivors, but Kapsidelis provides useful information on the topic, including discussions of gun violence as a health issue.”
Kapsidelis’ feelings are captured best in his prologue: “Minutes of unspeakable terror on a university campus in rural western Virginia set in motion a years-long quest for answers, reform and healing. The personal journeys of those whose lives were forever changed in Blacksburg show a path for the nation as well.”
A forgotten Founding Father
Williamsburg resident Christian Di Spigna spent about a dozen years researching the amazing chronicle of Massachusetts Patriot Joseph Warren. The result is “Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero” (Crown, 336 pgs. $28) a marvelously arrayed book.
Di Spigna, a summa cum laude graduate of Columbia University, has used his academic skills to pursue Warren’s role in the patriotic undertakings prior to the outset of the American Revolution. Warren’s efforts were probably, Di Spigna points out, more important and had more impact in those years than better known Bay State patriots—Samuel Adams, John Hancock and John Adams.
Unfortunately for Warren, his efforts as a patriot leader ended on June 17, 1775, when he was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Dr. Warren, whose career as a physician is skillfully woven among examples of his patriotic fervor, felt it was his duty to be in the field with troops rather than on the sidelines. In fact, in a letter to Samuel Adams just two days before the battle, Warren wrote, “The mistress we court is LIBERTY; and it is better to die than not to obtain her.”
Therefore, before Thomas Jefferson or George Washington and other Founding Fathers there was Joseph Warren, simply a forgotten Founding Father, until Di Spigna restored his place on the American historical stage.
Yorktown ghost visit
You may have missed this item. Jeffrey Santos of Poquoson has provided the appropriate guide, “Ghosts of Yorktown, Virginia: A Haunted Tour Guide” (Schiffer Publishing Co., 112 pgs., $16.99).
The director and cofounder of Virginia Paranormal Investigations, Santos wrote his first book about Yorktown because he discovered that the colonial village was the most haunted place in the Historic Triangle, including Jamestown and Williamsburg. Investigations have been conducted by his team at the nearby Bellfield Plantation site, along the Great Valley Road that stretches from Main Street to the waterfront, where the team also examined Cornwallis’ Cave.
“Ghosts do exist,” he wrote. “They are around us all the time, both day and night. Through the twilight hours, when the world is still, their presence seems more apparent.”
Although the National Park Service, owner of much of the existing colonial Yorktown properties, has not allowed paranormal investigations, Santos believes “spirits from long ago linger.” Use his guide book to walk the areas where ghosts and spirits are believed to be. And try it in the evening hours when shadows begin to appear.
Kale can be contacted at Kaleonbooks@gmail.com