Virginia Tech tragedy shines new light on student's remark


Published: Friday, June 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 1, 2007 at 12:04 a.m.

Dear Abby: In light of the events at Virginia Tech, I need some advice on a situation I encountered at work. I travel to many retail locations each week, and sometimes I am "stationed'' at one of them for several weeks, or even months.

Two months ago, I was chatting with a young man I'll call "Ryan,'' and during the conversation he told me that when he was in high school, he had drawn up plans for a Columbine-type assault. The comment came out of the blue, and he laughed it off, saying it would make a good movie script.

Ryan is now at a local community college, and I would not want to be a student at his school. He makes me very uneasy, and I don't like having to interact with him. After the Virginia Tech tragedy, I asked him his thoughts. His reply was, "I wouldn't have killed myself.'' The implication was that the murder of 30-plus people was fine with him, but suicide would send him to hell.

This kid really scares me, and my gut instinct is to tell the store management about his comments. If he gets angry someday and snaps, I will feel terrible that I didn't say something, but I am a "visitor'' in these stores, and I don't want to be labeled as a troublemaker by them or my employer. What should I do?

Very Troubled in Arizona

Dear Troubled: It's too bad you didn't "remind'' Ryan that committing murder would also send him to hell.

Because the young man scares you, my recommendation is to go with your gut. However, rather than reporting the conversation to store management, you should bring it to the attention of the police in your community. They can - and should - check to see whether he has access to, or has purchased, any weapons.

Dear Abby: My husband and I are planning to attend my niece's wedding next month and, as usual, the prospect of being with my family has thrown me into a tizzy. We are simple people - we are both teachers, and we have raised three great children but no superstars.

My sister and brothers are all wealthy. Their children are excellent scholars and/or athletes, including two who play professionally.

I feel fine about our accomplishments and am proud of our children and what they have done - that is, until I am around my brothers and sister. Then I beat myself up thinking I wasn't as good a mother as I should have been.

I am tempted to skip this wedding because this happens every single time, and I don't enjoy my visits with them. What do I do?

Tempted to Refuse in the U.S.A.

Dear Tempted to Refuse: I see no reason why you should feel "second best'' and compare yourself and your family to your siblings. You and your husband chose to go into one of the "helping'' professions rather than one that would bring in more money. Many people would consider that a far greater contribution to our society than accumulating a pile of assets.

As to comparing the accomplishments of these "superstar'' athletes and scholarly nieces and nephews - I can't imagine a greater waste of time. If your children are educated, employed and happy with their lives, then dear lady, you have accomplished what is most important.

Skip the wedding if that's what you prefer, but please do not do so because you're ashamed of your life. From my perspective, you and your family are very successful people in your own right.

Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

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