In response to the Virginia Tech tragedy
Death happens to everyone at some point, and often in seemingly unfair manners, often with nothing that could have been done to prevent it. It is unfair when a tree falls and kills a sleeping group of campers. It is unfair when children are born HIV-positive, and they are doomed to die as a result of a disease that no known medication can reverse. It is unfair when a raccoon runs across the road in the middle of the night, and a driver sees it too late, and cannot stop the car in time to spare the animal’s life.
What happened at Virginia Tech was not a matter of unfairness that was beyond anyone’s direct control. Seung-Hui Cho was directly responsible for the death of the 32 Virginia Tech students, despite the fact that he had a history of mental health issues. Perhaps no amount of counseling could have suppressed his sudden desire or motive to kill so many people, including himself–but he was still responsible. Perhaps an ideal solution to his internal problems was highly unlikely, but it was not impossible.However, many people do not consider what the solution might have been. Instead, they cast the blame on others for not finding the solution before it was too late. That is understandable; it is an easier concept to swallow.
Looking back on Cho’s history, there are so many places people could cast the blame. One could blame the fact that he seemed physically destined for mental disorders. One could blame the children that picked on him in his early adolescence for being shy and speaking oddly, thus making him more bitter. One could blame his family, or the fact that his traditional Korean culture does not recognize mental illness, and thus his condition was never sufficiently addressed. One could blame the work of an angry God.But casting blame does nothing. It does not justify, or even explain Cho’s actions, nor does it validate the deaths of the Virginia Tech students.Most importantly, it does not help us as a nation, as a society, understand how to prevent terrible tragedies such as these from occurring in the future.
I am almost 20 years old, and I’ve seen plenty of tragedies such as this on the news–school shootings, suicide bombers, and most notably, the 9/11 attacks. I was 14 years old when 9/11 happened. I’d just begun high school, and at that age, it is very easy to become completely wrapped up in your own world of school, friends, and family. But when the news of the destroyed Twin Towers reached my ears, I became terrified, because it had hit so physically close to home. We lived only 45 minutes outside of New York City. We had visited the Towers less than two months ago to buy discount Broadway tickets. In my sixth period class, a girl was hysterically crying because her father worked right in the area. He survived the attack, as did my friend’s uncle (after running down 65 flights of stairs in the burning Tower 2 as the doomed individuals on the top floors jumped out of windows all around him), but five others from our community were killed. And my prayers are always with my high school alumni who were affected by the tragedy enough to participate themselves in fighting the war on terrorism.
Even though the Virginia Tech incident did not occur so close to where I live, and even though I don’t know any VT students personally, an attack like this seems to strike more of an emotional chord with me than even 9/11 did. That is because the murders at VT were committed, not by crazed foreign terrorists living and dying for their warped political and moral beliefs, but by someone who is my peer. A college student, just like me. It could have been a classmate of mine, a roommate of mine, a childhood friend of mine, being killed, or doing the killing.
These are times when the “fragility of life” is discussed until we’re beating a dead horse. Life’s fragility should not be the issue. We cannot change the fact that those students never had a chance to live a post-college life, or the fact that Seung-Hui Cho was never able to live a mentally stable life.We cannot change the past, but that does not stop us from acknowledging it. It is within our power to analyze what has happened, to consider every side to every issue before laying shallow and meaningless blame. It is our job to do so.
I am certainly in no intellectual position to tell the world how to handle something like the Virginia Tech tragedy. I do not know the panacea that will bring about world peace. But where that is concerned, I remember a story that our reverend told us last year about a church sign she spotted once that said, “World Peace Starts Here.”And “here” did not necessarily mean within that one church itself. As you know, even churches and denominations promoting peace and love can certainly have their own discrepancies and intolerances too. And certainly, not everyone needs religion of any kind to create and promote peace.No, what the sign wanted to convey was that “here” means HERE.HERE. Where I am, where you are, wherever we may be.And what’s more, we have the power to take peace wherever we go. We may not know all the answers about the rest of the world, but each of us knows what peace feels like, and each of us has the power to spread it.And on that note, for a small bit of smiling relief, I now need to spread some peace to my chaotic-looking dorm room.
But in the meantime, I ask that you keep the families and friends of the Virginia Tech victims in your hearts, and in your prayers (if you do pray).That’s why I always sign off with…Love, peace, and [something else, as if the world really needs anything else],❤ ~ Ashley