Dubbo en­gi­neer thank­ful for Aus­tralia’s gun laws

Dubbo Photo News - - Weekender -

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.

PHOTO: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE

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

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