Sue McCann Wiseman remembers Aug. 1 as a typical mid-summer day in Austin: hot and humid. She’d grown up in the Texas capital city, and attended the University of Texas at Austin.
As a student, she worked for the graduate school. She was asked to stay late on the day of the shooting because it was the last day for graduate students to turn in their dissertation or thesis. She counts that coincidence as a lucky one – otherwise she might have been on the West Mall at the time of the shooting.
While at work, a couple came in and said that they saw Whitman earlier in the day. They saw Whitman holding a gun in the Main Building, and he said to them: “Oh, we have a bird problem.”
McCann Wiseman’s father also worked at UT as a gardener. He and his crew had been working near the Main Building, and heard gunshots as they drove away. But their first thought, McCann Wiseman’s father told her, was that it may have been someone using one of their pressure drills without permission.
Wiseman remembers seeing people try to help those who’d been shot on the South Mall in between rounds of Whitman’s fire, but she couldn’t bring herself to watch for long.
“It was 90 minutes of just, ‘How could this be happening?’ And then finally, all of a sudden, it got quiet,” Wiseman says.
When the shooting stopped for good, McCann Wiseman remembers people started to applaud.
“I just called my father and said, ‘I’d like to go home.’ And we did. It was one of those days when everybody just wanted to go home and hug someone,” she says.