A clearer picture of Omesh Hiraman, the 22-year-old freshman who sent the Flushing main campus of St. John’s University into a tailspin yesterday. Hiraman was wearing, of all things, a George W Bush mask, and carrying a rifle. St. John’s had recently instituted a text-messaging system, and thousands who had signed up, received warnings on their cell phones abut the gunman on the campus, which was promptly put on
‘lockdown”. Without a doubt, everybody on campus, as well as millions off-campus who heard the news, had frightening thoughts of Columbine, Virginia Tech, and the most recently threatened campus — Delaware State. Luckily, no one was hurt, largely due to a NYC police cadet, also a St. John’s student, who spotted
But, as the identity of the gunman emerged, so did the sad details. Today, with their son in a psychiatric unit at Bellevue Hospital, Omesh’s parents spoke to the press. They apologized to the community for the havoc their son had wrought on campus yesterday, and said that Omesh was not a bad person. Then, a picture emerged of a troubled history borne of events for which he was not responsible. Omesh Hiraman was a student at Stuyvesant High School, the specialized high school for the city’s most brilliant students. In fact, from there he had gone to Cornell, but left after a short time.
But, then 9/11 happened. From his high school, which is right next to Ground Zero, he saw the Twin Towers fall. and according to his parents, he was never the same from then on. He became paranoid after that. It wasn’t clear from the interview whether he suffered from schizophrenia before that day,but it seems apparent that the events of 9/11, exacerbated whatever latent mental illness he was prone to. He also recently had back surgery to correct his scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, and suffered extreme pain.
Maybe it was 9/11, the medication he took for back pain, mental illness, the pressure of two older accomplished brothers, or a combination of all of the above. We can’t be sure. But we do know that Omesh Hiraman was a victim of a world and a medical condition that dealt him more than he could handle. And for that, I pray for him, as well as all the others out there that keep it all bottled up until it all explodes. Today, St. John’s students tripled enrollment in the cellphone emergency text-messaging program. But we all have to register for a bigger program– to try to repair a world in which children can get through life without the fear of snapping all of a sudden. We all need to look at the factors that have made days like yesterday far too common lately on our campuses.