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September 14, 2007

Virginia Tech. Part 2: Suzanna Hupp


Suzanna Hupp survived that day too. Like Sommer, she escaped through the broken window, securing a very different future to the beauty queen.

Hupp was a local chiropractor at the time of Hennard's collapse. On the 17th she had arranged to meet her parents, Ursula (67) and Al Gratia (71) for lunch, and, in accordance with Texan law prohibiting concealed handguns, left hers in her car's glove compartment before entering the cafe. Hupp knew another customer there that day--Sid Isdale, another local chiropractor, and the grandfather of Sommer.

When Hennard began his fatal walk around the cafe, Hupp's father attempted to wrestle him. It is unsure from where Al Gratia's strength came from, or if it was just a blinding impulse, but it is breathtaking to think on it: an unarmed 71-year-old rushing a homicidal psychotic. For that he was shot fatally in the chest. Suzanna reached instinctively for her gun that wasn't there, and so she watched helplessly as Hennard shot dead her mother, and, now an orphan, fled through the broken glass.

In 1995 Hupp ran as a Republican for District 54, in the Texas House of Reps. She won, despite the District being traditionally Democratic, and very quickly established herself as one of America's most vocal defenders of the Second Amendment. The same year, Hupp sponsored a concealed gun bill intended to overturn former Texan Governor Anne Richard's anti-gun law. The bill was successful, and was signed off by then Texan Governor George W. Bush. Texans could now carry concealed handguns.

As media copy, Hupp's story is a good one. It contains such a solid hook: "what would I/could I have done that day in Luby's?". But as a personal tragedy that hook is the very point on which Hupp's personal struggle, or potential collapse, are strung. As spectators, we are asked only to hypothetically locate ourselves in the situation, a kind of virtual reality for the water-cooler, but for Hupp, the awful uselessness of that self-reflection was potentially catastrophic. To her credit, Hupp didn't buckle. Rather, she responded to her impotence to stop Hennard that day by building a successful political career, eventually overturning the law Hupp believed prevented her from saving her parents. It seems to me that Hupp's struggle is not only understandable, but courageous. It is also flawed.

Posted by Martin McKenzie-Murray at September 14, 2007 3:15 PM