Charles Whitman has at long-last claimed his 17th and final victim. For those old enough to remember that hot August day in 1966, the name Charles Whitman will remain lodged in our memories for life. His brutal and senseless act shocked a nation. Little did we know then that other similar acts would follow through the years.
Whitman was a deranged young man who took an armful of rifles with him and climbed to the top of the clock tower at the University of Texas in Austin. There over a number of hours, Whitman methodically killed 16 students and wounded 15 others. David Gunby, then a 23 year-old engineering student, was one of those wounded.
Gunby died last week, the 17th and final victim of Whitman's rage. Bullet fragments lodged in his only functioning kidney forced him to endure dialysis three times weekly for 27 years. He lived with ongoing kidney problems and finally a transplant. In the end, Gunby died from injuries suffered that hot August afternoon. His death will undoubtedly be the closing footnote to that tragic day.
The Whitman mystery will remain unsolved. After hours of dodging bullets, police finally killed Whitman after rushing the clock tower. We'll never know what drove him to that peaceful site on the university campus.
Many years later I visited the campus specifically to see the clock tower. It remains today, central on that campus - a reminder for those who remember. Few students today pay it much attention. Just like a site in downtown Dallas, just north of Austin, that had its day in history 38 years ago yesterday, the Texas clock tower will always remain a stark reminder of that frightening day. Whitman used that lofty perch to his advantage and one-by-one changed the life of the university, the students and perhaps the nation. It made no sense then and it doesn't still today.
David Gunby was 58 when he died. But in a way he too died on that August afternoon along with 16 other students. Unlike the others however, Gunby endured years of pain as a reminder of that fateful day.