In Memoriam: Virginia Tech, April 16, 2007


In Memoriam: Virginia Tech, April 16, 2007


April 16th, 2007

As one who worked with school districts across the country, I know the issue of school shootings is every school official's nightmare. The apparent random nature of all the shootings only makes the nightmare more fearful, for after dozens of workshops at countless conventions, the only thing anyone can say for sure is that they do not know where the awful sounds of gunfire will next echo down the hallways and in the classrooms.

But no one I knew or any of the workshops ever talked about the possibility of the equivalent of a Columbine occurring at a college. Every school district in the country has detailed policies in place if it ever happened to them. Their teachers, administrators and staff are trained in what to do and local law enforcement officials participate in the planning and the drills.

Now that it has happened at a college they, too, will have to undergo similar training and create similar plans. Campuses will seem less safe, new rules and drills will need to be implemented and college officials and teachers will now understand the nightmares of their secondary colleagues.

At the center of that nightmare lies a dark, bottomless pool. As with the Columbines of this country, people will stare into the pool seeking answers. Some will see reflections and try to generalize from them about the nature of the shooter and the victims, but the reflections they see will only be their own. Interest groups will look into the pool and see their causes, filling the talk shows with spokespersons who will say that if we had only done "x" the event would have never happened. Others will take a longer view trying to peer into the depths of the pool seeking confirmation of trends historical, social and psychological. They too will see only their own reflections.

For those at the center of it all, the parents, relatives and friends of the victims and the shooter, those who witnessed it and lived, and those who somehow made a decision to not go to those places at that time the pool will seem more like a maelstrom in which they are caught and cannot get out. Spinning helplessly they will try to maintain some sort of equilibrium, some rationality to keep from drowning in it all. For some this may mean just focusing on the immediate, the details of that which has to be done and it is only days, weeks, even months after that a delayed reaction will overcome them.

To help them survive the maelstrom the college will bring in the teams of counselors whose jobs are to somehow get everyone through this. Going in they know theirs represents a task akin to diving into that bottomless pool and seeking to build something solid. They will work miracles with some and experience heartache with others. Each case will be different, but will they will also hear the echoes of past times like this and try to somehow connect them with what now faces them.

Our country will experience yet another crack in its marble-like structure. And it too will become part of that pool if we let it. But staring into the pool accomplishes nothing, breeding only frustration, despair and even anger. The dark pool will beckon us with its siren songs to stare into its depths or even dive in.

Instead we need to turn away from the pool and remember that at least for a brief tick in time all of us will be as one, united with those Hokies at Virginia Tech into a collective version of Hokie Nation. For now is not a time for politics or debates or even business as usual. Instead families and communities need to realize how fleeting order and life can be and hug one another because that is all they can do. This time as with all those other times we will pledge to love one another a little more and show it. We will swear not to hate and to watch out for those stray souls who slip between the cracks only to emerge from those dark places with guns in their hands. Perhaps this time we can make that oneness last longer.

Perhaps we can remember that kind words can conquer hate and vitriol. Perhaps we can remember to succor the meek, the powerless, the people who have been dealt a bum hand through no fault of their own. Perhaps we can remember that in situations like the Virginia Tech shootings that we are in fact all equal, that it could have been any one of us who died or knew someone who died and yes who knew the shooter, for death recognizes no classes, no races, no languages or cultures as superior. Most of all we can try to nurture that feeling that all of us struggle to feel right now, that feeling of empathy with other human beings we did not know before and whose friends and family we somehow each wish we could help.

Posted by liberalamerican


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Ralph Brauer




Brent Jesiek


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Ralph Brauer, “In Memoriam: Virginia Tech, April 16, 2007,” The April 16 Archive, accessed June 22, 2024,