John Ryder

Student, Waggener Hall

00:00 / 10:20
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“On August 1, 1966 I had been studying in the Academic Center (AC) until shortly before noon. I walked over to the English Building to meet someone prior to going to my noon American Government class in Waggener Hall. I arrived there in time for the class on the first floor facing Speedway Street, across from Gregory Gym.

During the class, it was reported that there was shooting coming from the Tower.

At the time it was not known if there were multiple shooters on campus. We were instructed to remain in the class, as it obviously was not safe to leave the building at that time. We gathered together in an area of the classroom, and turned on a TV to watch the local University channel. They had set up a camera on the Northeast side of the Tower to view the top without an operator. From this, we were able to see the shots being fired from the observation deck.

My mother had worked in the Development Board office on the second floor of the Tower building. At noon that day my father had gone to pick her up for lunch. When he arrived at the west entrance of the Tower, he noticed something different.

He looked up at the Tower and saw the shooter. He quickly entered the Academic Center and was safe.

Once leaving Waggener Hall, the sounds of the ambulances and the smell of blood was experienced on the mall in front of the Tower. There was no counseling available to my knowledge at the time. During the next week, the news focused totally on the event. Neal Spelce was the face of the reporting on KTBC. During the event one of the senior newsmen, Paul Bolton, looked over the list of those killed, and found that his grandson, Paul Sonntag, was on the list.

In 1965, I had had a summer job as a sheet metal worker’s helper. The company, McCarty-Conley, had a contract to install air conditioning in campus buildings. Included in this were the “stacks” of the Tower. The construction workers had caused a small fire in the Tower in August 1965.

Additionally, often I would go the observation deck for relaxation from my studies in the A.C. The last time I had been on the observation deck was on Saturday, July 30, 1966, and I had planned on going up on Monday, the 1st.

After graduating in 1968, I left Austin for graduate school, and had a career in the US Army. Following my retirement from the army, I returned to live in Austin in 1996. I did not think much about the event during the years away from Austin.

However, now any time that I am on campus, it is definitely always in my thoughts.”