Back in the Stone Age,* when I was a kid,** schools were safe places.

OK, maybe not totally safe. The Kent State shootings and “four dead in Ohio” had occurred in early May of the year I started kindergarten, so if I’d been a socially aware 5-year-old, I would have known, already, that schools can, indeed, be very unsafe.

Still. Thirty-two people killed on a college campus. A school I’ve never visited but — wouldn’t you know? — am connected to, peripherally, at least: First of all, an online pal of mine’s ex-girlfriend happens to be attending Virginia Tech, and secondly, just a few short weeks ago, the SIU Salukis defeated the Hokies to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but there was a time when school was the place where I felt safer than anywhere else on earth. I always liked school, and I always liked being at school. Honestly, I can’t imagine how fucked-up I might have been if I’d had that one place, that sanctuary, taken from me by some random act of hideous violence.

I spent four years in college and, later, eight years working at a college. And I loved being there, as a student (the parts I remember, anyway) and as an instructor.

My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved in the Virginia Tech tragedy. And to anyone else who, like me, remembers how it felt when schools were safe … and knows those days are gone forever.

* — It wasn’t really the Stone Age (1970-1987), but sometimes it sure seems that way!

** — What’s that saying from, anyway? A commercial? “Back in the Stone Age, when I was a kid.” I know I’ve heard it somewhere!