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New Time For Texas Clock Tower

It is a towering symbol of higher learning and indiscriminate murder. It is the clock tower at the University of Texas, where in 1966, Charles Whitman carried out what was then the worst mass killing in U.S. history.

Now the university is planning to reopen the tower for a new generation still trying to measure the impact of that day, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod for Eye On America.

If it's not the most famous campus building in America, the University of Texas tower is without question the most infamous. It's been 32 years since a student named Charles Whitman climbed to the observation deck and started shooting.

In 90 minutes, he killed 14 people and wounded dozens more. Neil Speltz was the radio reporter suddenly broadcasting a massacre.

"When I got to the campus, he was leaning over the top of and I could see them just popping people and looking at them and shooting just like that," remembers Speltz.

The police finally killed Whitman.

After a number of suicides in the early 70's, the tower was closed to the public. Rose Everly teaches a course which examines the shooting's meaning.

"This sounds cliché, but it was a loss of innocence for the city and in many ways for the state as well," says Everly. "Even in death, Whitman has maintained a hold on this campus."

The tower, which always stood for the best the university had to offer, became instead a national symbol of terror, rage, and random violence. To this day, a part of the Texas soul remains a hostage of Charles Whitman's ghost.

When he took over in April, U.T. President Larry Faulkner made it his mission to retain the tower by reopening. "The longer we leave it closed, the longer we freeze the tower's history with the legacy of the 1960's and early 1970's," says Faulkner. "It's time for subsequent generations to have a chance to have a positive experience with this place."

The tower is now set to open next May after architects make safety changes. Then, a new generation of students will be able to climb to the top. And after a quarter century, perhaps the blood stains left by Charles Whitman can finally fade away.