The monstrous tragedy at Virginia Tech, which occurred yesterday, was the largest school massacre in US history. It was not the first and will, unfortunately, not be the last. The violence is certainly occurring more frequently. The Columbine High School massacre is the one that most quickly comes to mind. More recently an Amish School in Pennsylvania was the site of another slaughter of innocent children by a madman. Outside of the school setting, the last big massacre in the US was at Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen in 1991 where 23 people where slaughtered.
The massacre that came closest to my family is now all but forgotten. The bombing at the Poe Elementary School in Houston Texas (pictured above) on September 15, 1959 killed one of my cousins. He became a hero and later a school in Houston was named in his honor. He was James Arlie Montgomery and he is buried in our family cemetery, The Union Groove Cemetery in Montgomery County.
The Poe massacre killed six people including the perpetrator and his son. The deranged killer came with his son to Poe School on the morning of September 15, 1959. He wanted his son enrolled in school but was told he would have to return with a birth certificate for the child. He went onto the school ground during recess and approached a teacher. He handed her a piece of paper and muttered something about the will of God. He was carrying a brown suitcase. The teacher became suspicious and called for the principal and for Arlie Montgomery, the school custodian, and the only male on the campus. The man asks for all the children to gather around in a circle. Arlie Montgomery, recognizing that there was potential danger, ushered the children inside the building. He returned to the site where the teacher was now talking to the man. The madman opened the suitcase that detonated a bomb, killing six people including Arlie Montgomery, a teacher. the perpetrator, his son and two other children. The bomb exploded under a maple tree. The tree was completely denuded of leaves and a six-inch deep hole was made in the asphalt. Body parts were scattered for over a block. The bombers hand was found in a scrub a block away and his shoulder found on top of a building across the street. Later he was found to have served a couple of terms in prison and was a safe cracker.
Arlie Montgomery had no idea what was in store for him when he left home on the morning of September 15. He was a kind, innocent man who loved children and did not deserve to die the way he did. Arlie Montgomery is one of my heroes.
School massacres are not new and will continue as long as we have disturbed people running loose. Unfortunately, there is no good way to contain or even identify the disturbed people or those who are fanatically radical like the terrorist we now fight against, and who are willing to sacrifice their lives, because they think they are right in killing the infidels.
For now I mourn the death of the innocent victims at Virginia Tech along with my cousin James Arlie Montgomery.