On Tuesday of this week I found myself talking with our staff and using words I do not normally use, words like “shooter,” and “first responder.” We often resort to language during these times that tends to sanitize the ugliness of events like the killings at Virginia Tech. I suppose it is one way that we cope. We look for the “why” of the tragedy. If we can find a “why” we can somehow better convince ourselves that it could not happen to us. Maybe school officials were to blame. Maybe it was a romance gone badly (as one uninformed news person suggested early on). Maybe someone should have known the killer was troubled and sent him away from the University before he was allowed to hurt someone. The tragedy will be dissected for months, maybe years. University campuses will study their own emergency response plans and doubtless other tragedies will be avoided.
I know this. Some very innocent people got up and went to class like they had done all year and before the end of the first class of the day, they had lost their lives. I have been drawn to the profiles of these young people. Each of them had great promise. Each of them had families that loved them and now are left to grieve.
That this occurred at a university is especially heinous. A university is an open, accepting place. It is place where ideas can be shared and debated, where people can grow in wisdom and character. Ironically, Virginia Tech was probably one of the few places where the bizarre behavior of the killer would even be tolerated in our society. A violent rampage in such an intellectual sanctuary is unconscionable.
I find myself at times like this wanting to offer words of comfort and understanding but words fail me. I can’t help but think of those parents who must bury children that are the same ages as my son and daughter and I cannot even begin to imagine their grief.
I worry about this generation of young people who have witnessed so much senseless violence. To be sure, my generation had its assassinations, Vietnam War, Kent State, riots, and other tragic events; but there were fewer episodes that seared themselves into the national conscience as have Oklahoma, 9/11, Katrina, Columbine and now Virginia Tech. With communications taking longer, we also had more time to process events than today’s instant news allows. That young people today can remain so focused and optimistic is really a testament to their generation. It is likely that this fortitude that is being honed with these national crises will serve them well in the future.
We can never fully provide for the safety and security of our loved ones. We can however, find in our faith, the strength to overcome fear and continue with our daily lives. My prayers are with all those affected by this senseless tragedy.