I wrote this when the Virginia Tech shooting happened years ago. I’m reminded of why I wrote this and how I felt that day when I heard about the tragic events in Boston. So, this is a re-post. Be well and be safe.
Today in Rutgers, we have a very happy occasion to celebrate. After what seemed like an entire day of torrential rain, the university has decided to cancel class for both Monday and Tuesday. While we were all celebrating in our own ways, many of us overlooked the horrifying news today that 33 people lie dead at Virginia Tech, with dozens more injured.
When I first heard, I was saddened, but then brushed it off as the day wore by, until I saw and talked to my friend Leigh, whom I thought was oddly depressed during our impromptu break. When I asked her why she wasn’t happier, she replied to me that she was upset about the shooting. You see, Leigh is from Virginia, and not only do many of her friends attend that school, but it is also a place of pride and place of meaning for many Virginians (Leigh, correct me if I’m wrong). I can only begin to imagine the sudden and horrific sense of dread that strikes when something that is so certain is ripped away from you, destroying the sense of security that we all create for ourselves.
We all believe in the invincibility of our youths, and when that is stripped from us, we are exposed as the children that we all still are, and the adults that we all strive to be. When I went to bed tonight, I made the conscious decision to lock the door. I had read that the shooting started in a dorm, and that stuck with me. I did so as a precaution, as silly as that might sound, and as I turned away from the door, the full enormity of the situation engulfed me.
Inevitably, we as Americans are always searching for answers, and in doing so, simplify the most complex of ideas into condensed facts that 10 year olds can understand, and in doing so, require dozens of so called ‘experts’ to tell us about it. As this tragedy unfolds, we will begin searching for something or someone to blame, but the simple truth is this.
It was the act of a madman.
It scares me and it horrifies me that within the depths of madness there exists the depravity to systematically murder dozens of people. We all know of the examples of the past, but we all choose to believe that such things are relagated to history. Time and time again, we are proven wrong. We will blame the media, the videogames, the violent movies. Or maybe we will blame the books they read, the signs we failed to notice, the parents that were never home. Or even worse, they will blame the student body for ostracizing and not taking care of the very people who extinguished 32 of their own.
It was the act of a madman.
Madness is inexplicable. What drives a person to commit such acts of depravity should be beyond any sane person to realize. At best, it is hard to accept, but when we are faced with a tragedy like this that forces us to realize madness in such stark contrast, as well as challenge our mortality, we rush and search to find answers when there very well could be none.
My mom called me three times today, and I was out for most of the day. I finally got an IM from my sister telling me to call home. Then I got an e-mail, and then a text from my mom. Yes, my mom knows how to text, isn’t that cool? When I called back at around 11:47pm, she wasn’t angry to know that I hadn’t called today, she was just relieved to hear my voice. I told her that school was cancelled for the next two days, and then went on to tell her all the other boring details of my life. I could tell that she was content, and when we hung up, we both forgot to say ‘I Love You’ to one another. That’s ok. Because it’s understood, and I know the reason she called. Even though the shooting happened hundreds of miles away, the threat of losing a loved one, or anyone really, is enough to get anyone flustered.
Madness is inexplicable, but if there is anything that I’m sure of, I know of what keeps us human. It is the smiles that we give to each other when we go down the hall, the laughter that we exchange over an inside joke, the ridiculous teasing and needling, though no one will admit, deep down the grunt that we give each other when it is all together too early in the morning. It is in the mundane and the ordinary that we find the strength and the ability to wake up the next day, or to finish reading that last chapter of Organic Chem, because we know that there is something better around the corner.
I don’t ask of you to give everyone you see a hug, or even to appreciate the people around you more. Just realize that we all live in extraordinary times, and that humanity, even divinity lies in the ordinary.
If you believe in God, believe that he will take care of those 32 dead. If you believe in prayer, pray for those who are departed.
For the days to come, we will be in the shadow of a gunman, but remember, before we raise our voices to clamor and before we point our fingers to accuse, know that this was an act of a madman, and he is the only one to blame.