Dubbo engineer thankful for Australia’s gun laws
RIDWAN Quaium now lives in Dubbo but he has fond memories of his studying days at Virginia Tech in the USA where he earnt his qualifications to become a civil engineer.
But his famous alma mater, which houses one of the world’s most highly-regarded engineering faculties in the world, was turned upside down while he was there, and he feels lucky to have escaped with his life.
“Monday, April 16, 2007, was an unusually chilly morning in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA, the home of Virginia Tech, and although it was early spring that morning there were snow flurries,” Mr Quaium told
“My two roommates and myself were pursuing our Bachelor of Science degree at Virginia Tech, and we were just a few weeks away from our graduation which was in early May.
“While walking to the bus stop to catch the bus to campus that morning, we were complaining about the chilly weather but none of us had any clue that in the next few hours, things in Virginia Tech would get chillier than it ever did since 1872, when the university was founded,” he said.
Mr Quaium had no clue that with only a few weeks until his graduation, he’d reach that milestone amid a welter of bitterness and traumatisation.
Each week after his first Monday morning class he was scheduled to have a research group meeting with his Advisor, Dr G.V. Loganathan, along with some of his fellow research teammates at 10am.
He was the only undergraduate student in the team. All the other researchers, other than his Advisor, were PHD students. The research team was set up for PHD students, but his Advisor had extreme faith in his potential and allowed him to be a part of that hard-working research team.
“Just like other Mondays, I was on my way to attend the research group meeting when I saw a flurry of police cars furiously passing by – I was quite startled at this and, while trying to understand what was going on, one of the police cars stopped and informed me that there was terrorist activity on campus and advised me to take shelter at the nearest academic building,” Mr Quaium recalled.
“I ran to the nearest academic building and, after a while, students and faculties in that building were told that due to a shooting on campus, to keep us safe, the building would be locked down and we might have to stay in the building for hours if not a few days.
“We were also advised to stay away from windows and duck under the desks.
“I became extremely horrified at the announcement – previously I have seen similar scenes in movies, but it was my first time experiencing such an incident,” he said.
Shortly after 12 noon those sheltering were told that the shooting was over, and it was safe to go home.
“Still extremely horrified, I went home and tuned to the campus news bulletin. By the end of the day I had learned that the deadliest shooting massacre on a university campus in US history had happened in Virginia Tech that day at around half past nine – the lives of 32 innocent faculties and students were cut short,” Mr Quaium said.
“Amongst those 32 victims were my Advisor and most of my research team-mates.
“I was shocked, dumbfounded and traumatised. It was a big tragedy for me,” he said.
The gunman, who later shot himself, was also a student of the university and subsequent investigations revealed the shooter had been suffering from mental illness.
It’s been more than 12 years since that campus shooting happened, but Mr Quaium said that even to this day the incident gives him tremors when he thinks that such a tragedy happened so close to him – and how easily he could have been one of the multiple victims.
He was prompted to choose Virginia Tech for his tertiary studies as its engineering program is one of the highest-regarded across the globe, and he says the main campus of the university is one of the most scenic campuses on the USA’S east coast.
Prior to that shooting, it was also one of the safest campuses in the country.
“Today, I am honoured and privileged to be a graduate of Virginia Tech because, other than gaining academic knowledge in civil engineering, I have learned that unity and love is essential to stay strong and overcome and prevail difficult times,” Mr Quaium said.
“However, today I feel even more privileged, lucky and safe to be in a country where there are strict gun laws.
“Thank you, Australia – you have shown that strict gun laws can save lives.
“May our world be full of love, laughter, joy, happiness, compassion and unity, and may we try to solve our differences, if any, with words of sweetness rather than bitter arms,” he said.
May 7, 2019
– A man who was not a student at Savannah State University shot and wounded a student at a residence hall
May 7, 2019 – STEM School Highlands Ranch: Two shooters killed 1 student and injured 8 others
May 6, 2019, Riverview Florida – A person shot through a window of an elementary school bus with 11 kids inside
April 30, 2019 – A shooter on the University of North Carolina at Charlotte campus killed 2 and injured 4 on the last day of classes. Riley Howell, a student in the classroom, was credited with stopping the shooter.
April 25, 2019 – At College of the Mainland, Texas city, Texas, police cadet student, 21-year-old Clayton Whatley, reached into his backpack and accidentally discharged a loaded handgun. Two other students were shot in the leg, and a third was grazed.
April 25, 2019 – A juvenile who was in the woods shot and injured 10 children at a playground in at Wynbrooke Elementary School with a BB or pellet gun. The 14-year-old suspect was not arrested until May and is being charged with 10 counts of aggravated assault, one for each student injured in the incident.
April 1, 2019 – A 14-yearold male student with a concealed weapon shot a 14-yearold classmate at Prescott High School in what police described as a "premeditated attack". The victim was airlifted to a nearby hospital and in stable condition. The shooter was apprehended by school resource officers.
Students take part in a candlelight vigil the day after the killings at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA in April, 2007.
Ridwan Quaium at Virginia Tech and (right) Ridwan graduating with his roommates. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED