THE BLOG
04/16/2007 07:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Madness

He seemed like a normal kid...

The oldest of three brothers raised on South L Street in Lake Worth, Florida, [Charles] Whitman attended St. Ann's High School in Palm Beach, where he was a pitcher on the school's baseball team. Charles and his brothers all served as altar boys at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, and he chose the Confirmation name "Joseph" for himself.

At the age of 6, he had scored 138 on an IQ test. Six years later, he was among the youngest to ever achieve Eagle Scout, to his father's delight. He took five years of piano lessons.

When Whitman was 14, and still serving as an altar boy, his Scout leader Joseph Leduc completed seminary and served as the priest of Sacred Heart for a month. Leduc was a family friend, who had accompanied Whitman and his father on several hunting trips. This was also the year that he finally overcame his habit of nervously biting his nails. At the age of 16, Whitman underwent a routine appendectomy. The same year, he was hospitalized following a motorcycle accident.

When he graduated high school, he joined the Marines...

At first Whitman did quite well in the Corps, earning a Good Conduct Medal and the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal at Guantanomo Naval Base in Cuba. He also scored an eye opening 215 out of a possible 250 points on the shooting range, receiving a Sharpshooters Badge. Trying to prove his father wrong and be successful, Whitman applied for a Naval Enlisted Science Education Program scholarship, which would help him earn an engineering degree at a selected school. Whitman got the award, and was expected to enter Officer's Candidate School upon the completion of his degree. In September of 1961 he enrolled at the University of Texas.

But despite all that promise, something awful happened five years later :

whitman-chronicle.jpg

It's a story that's too familiar. Someone disturbed through emotional or physical trauma loses control and acts out a violent fantasy. It's not because they play video games or listen to aggressive music or watch violent movies or don't go to church. Oppressive security measures and an obsessive push to rid our culture of unpleasant imagery won't make us safer. Despite what those desperate to find an easy fix to a complicated (and probably unsolvable) problem would have you believe, sometimes people just snap.

(originally posted at The Talent Show and This Modern World)