Campus reacts to Austin crash

Campus reacts to Austin crash

Sophomore education major Carley Gunter first thought about her loved ones’ safety after hearing about the airplane that crashed into an Internal Revenue Service office building in her hometown. The Austin native then considered the potential of a terrorist attack.

“I was taken aback by (the crash) because that kind of issue hasn’t come about since 9/11,” she said. “It’s different when it’s someone in your own country.”

A 53-year-old software engineer identified by the FBI as Joseph A. Stack crashed a small plane Thursday into an Austin building containing about 200 Internal Revenue Service employees. At least one person in the building is missing. In a long note that Stack reportedly posted on the Internet, he ranted about the IRS, government bailouts and corporate corruption.

Joanne Green, an associate professor and chair of the political science department, said Americans are shocked at events like this because they do not see terrorism as a solution to any problem.

“It’s harder for (Americans) to understand domestic terrorism than foreign terrorism because we have such a strong sense of nationalism and pride,” Green said.

Americans more often solve problems by invoking their rights, Green said.

“Because we have so many venues to positively effect change, rarely have we seen individuals domestically resort to violence…we have so many other ways we can bring about change in the United States,” she said.

Whereas those in countries living in turmoil effect change with violence, Americans vote, become members of interest groups, petition and seek help from the court system, Green said.

“Violence is a last resort for us historically,” she said. “That’s why (the situation) is so shocking.”

Although there have been some terrorist threats in past years, Americans have let their guard down, Green said.

“Most people have relaxed into a false sense of security and calm,” Green said. “It’s shocking. People are saying, ‘Gosh, maybe we still are vulnerable.'”

It is easier for people to digest an incident if they find out it’s an accident and not intentional, Green said. That is precisely why the plane’s pilot, Stack, used the tactics he did, she said. Instead of doing something impulsive, like walk into the building and shoot people, Stack chose to demonstrate the amount of planning involved in his act, Green said.

Kelsie Byers, a sophomore nursing major, said she was shocked at the news of the crash, much like she was on Sept. 11. She said she thought the crash could have been prevented if family members had noticed Stack was not psychologically stable.
Overall, she thought the incident sent a clear message, Byers said.

“It sends people into a realization that it could be anyone,” she said. “It’s not just racial or dealing with religion, it’s anyone in every type of aspect.”

Senior communication studies major William Jacobs agreed that domestic terrorism is a threat that Americans must face.

“That’s somebody’s neighbor, that’s somebody’s co-worker, somebody’s employer or employee,” Jacobs said. “As a community we need to be more observant of our peers and our neighbors and be more involved in each other’s lives.”