Nancy Jane Compere

Student, Home Economics Building

00:00 / 10:20
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“My then-newlywed husband and I were attending our last semester of classes that summer of 1966 in August when Charles Whitman opened fire on the UT campus. We both had classes that day beginning at 7 AM in different buildings and were both on campus when the shooting begin.

I have vivid memories of the day and some interesting stories. The one seared in my memory is that, when the shooting began, we were all told to get into the hall of our building (The Home Economics Building) to get away from the windows – which were being fired upon by a sniper. Someone had a radio and we all began listening to the account of the attack on the University.

What is now KLBJ was the only Austin radio station and the news announcer was told to have a hospital spokesperson read the names of the confirmed ‘dead’ over the radio, because the telephone lines into and out of Austin were jammed with frantic parents & students and others trying to get information about the injured and dead from the shooting – which seemed to go on forever, even though I guess it was really only a few hours.

The hospital spokesperson read the list of the deceased over the radio and we all listened intently. The news commentator came back on the microphone with a quivering voice asking him to re-read the list, saying, ‘I think you read my grandson’s name.’ And the reporter re-read the list. Sure enough, the grandson’s name was read.  (They had the same name!) It was so very sad! Then the news commentator was replaced with a new voice.

Until this day, I will never forget how I felt at that moment. It was as if we were all in the hall with him suffering together. We were all in tears.

I still remember his quivering voice. I felt so bad for him. He was just doing his job, then to get that horrible message in that way! It was a very awful day!

During that time, I had no idea where my new husband was. His plan was to take an exam in his first class at 7 AM, then go to our car parked on University Drive and go home to take a nap. Had he left campus after his first class, he would have been crossing the mall under the tower at about 8:45-9 AM, which was about the time that the shooting started! Fortunately, he decided to stay on campus and attend his next class at 9 AM. But, during the time spent in the hall of my building, I had no idea what the fate of my husband was, only that his name was NOT read on the deceased list!

On purpose, when we could leave our building, I walked way around the main mall, because I didn’t want to remember the Tower Mall as a bloody mall, I wanted to remember it as a good place that gave me strength during my years at UT to pursue my goals. When I reached Littlefield Fountain, I found my husband and we went home to our duplex, extremely grateful that our lives could move forward. It was truly a day that I will never forget.”