In December 2021, Sara Kinney sat across from me and Robert Quigley, the founder of The Drag, and pitched us a six-episode series about the University of Texas Tower shootings in 1966. She told us that she, a sophomore journalism student at UT at the time, grew up participating in school shooting drills, and it struck her that not that many people knew about this, one of the first school shootings in U.S. history. Her presentation was so professional and thorough, we hired her on the spot.
Sara’s pitch struck me personally, too — I was a student on this campus when a fellow student ran by the building where I was taking my 8 a.m. freshman journalism course with an AK-47. He opened fire on campus before turning the gun on himself. It’s an event I didn’t think about much, if at all. Thirteen years later, with school shootings in the news seemingly every week, I’m an instructor on this campus, and not a day goes by where I don’t clock the most convenient exit in a campus building, or check to see if the doors of the room I’m in lock from the inside. When I was Sara’s age, I couldn’t imagine what it must have felt like growing up with the fear of a mass shooting. I can easily imagine it now.
That fear is the topic of this season of “Darkness.” A lot has changed since the Tower shootings in 1966, but not for the better. School shootings are on the rise. According to the Washington Post, 2022 was the deadliest year for school shootings. More than 356,000 students have experienced school shootings since Columbine. According to that Washington Post database, there have been at least 75 school shootings in the United States since Sara started working on this podcast series, including the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 elementary school students and two teachers dead and 17 others injured.
This season, Sara walks us through the day of the shooting and outlines its legacy among the decades-long epidemic of gun violence in schools. You’ll hear from survivors, heroes and family members about that day in 1966, their lives since then and the state of gun control today. The podcast also features archival audio from 1966, including police radio transmissions and news broadcasts.