This newspaper's lead story Monday was about how, in the wake of a mass shooting at Trolley Square last February, a majority of Salt Lake residents believe their city is less safe than a decade or two ago. That perception is wrong. In reality, the crime rate is down over that time in nearly every category.
But the perception reflects an understandable, and not altogether unfounded, feeling of unease. The tragic mass killing at Virginia Tech on Monday underscores that unease. When people face the possibility of encountering senseless and random violence at schools or shopping malls — places where they are accustomed to feeling safe — that has a tangible impact on the overall feeling of security in a community.
Because of what happened at Trolley Square, the people of the Wasatch Front should feel a special connection with the people in and around Blacksburg, Va., where at least 32 people died Monday in two separate shooting incidents. Such a random and meaningless act produces a type of sadness that permeates an entire community. Grief is multiplied as each death touches the lives of friends, parents and other relatives.
The tragedy is especially compounded when victims are young and preparing for a life full of promise. Just as many people today approach Trolley Square with a different feeling than before, it is doubtful Virginia Tech, a proud campus founded in 1872, will be able to resume a normal pattern of life for a long time.
So many questions remain unanswered. A lot of them center on police, who were criticized Monday for not locking down the campus during the two hours between the first shooting at a dorm and the second, massive attack in a classroom. But as folks here know, a lot of questions — particularly the big ones about the shooter's motives — are extremely difficult to answer. And, no matter what the answer, it never could dry the tears or comfort the grief.
There is sad irony in the fact that, at a time when so many brave Americans are dying abroad to keep terrorists from striking here, some people here are choosing to commit crimes that, even if not related to al-Qaida, can be described only as terrorism. This nation, for some reason, seems to produce a steady stream of senseless mass killings at random locations.
Like any terrorism, that sort of thing can spread a feeling, despite what crime statistics say, that things are unsafe.