“Out of the Blue: 50 Years After the UT Tower Shooting” is Texas Standard’s oral history on the anniversary of the first public mass shooting of its kind.
Paul Eichelberger attended the University of Texas at Austin from 1965 to 1967. On Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Whitman began shooting people from the UT tower. That day, Eichelberger says, started off like any other day did.
He parked his car at the fraternity house for his noon class. As he got closer, he says he had a feeling he wasn’t going to attend the class after all. Instead, he wanted to go hang out on the Drag in a coffee shop. He’d told a friend earlier “I’m really bored today.”
While he was sitting in the coffee shop a woman he knew came in, her face ghostly white. “Someone’s shooting people outside,” she said.
“I looked out looked up the street and saw a student laying on the ground outside a store,” Eichelberger says.
He left the coffee shop and approached the man where he was lying.
“His eyes were closed,” Eichelberger says. “I never knew his name.”
Later on, the man’s fiancée contacted Eichelberger and told him about the man’s life. The man’s mother also wrote, thanking Eichelberger for helping her son.
He remembers one line from the letter: “I’m really glad that you weren’t in any way injured.”
“I thought it took a lot of gumption for her to say that,” Eichelberger says. “But the big regret I have in life is I never replied to her.”
Eichelberger wanted to put all this behind him.
“It’s changed me forever in the way how precious I hold life,” he says. “And the fact that I’ll never say again ‘I’m really bored today.’”
Read his personal account and listen to his interview.
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.