First of all, my heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims so senselessly slaughtered at Virginia Tech. I find it strange to sort out the reactions. The grief I understand. The only other character that may be easy to understand is the killer; whatever set off a disturbed young man coupled with access to weapons was always a likely possibility. I’ve yet to hear or read the full report on him, but I’m sure it’s just one more sad nut case.
What I find disturbing is that even before the perpetrator was firmly identified, speculation circulated about the stress college puts on students. Mere finger pointing back at establishment when thousands of students manage to get through just fine. He was just one man and I doubt society did anything to make him do what he did.
I’m not a mother so I can’t say what it’s like to lose a child or even think of it. Though I’ve seen the pain in my father’s eyes when my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I’ve seen another sister go through the fear of her own daughter’s brain tumor operations. I’ve had a sister-in-law go through labor knowing she was delivering an already dead baby. I’ve heard my mother’s last breath, I’ve told a friend dying of cancer that it wouldn’t be much longer, I’ve done unsuccessful CPR on a neighbor who’d just a half hour prior put a bucket of sand on our icy driveway. Somehow I’m most disturbed when I learn of the loss of a teenager or a young adult. I don’t really know why.
It’s hard not to be affected by a murder spree, especially of this magnitude. What we must remember though is that it’s not a common occurrence. The rarity of it in fact is the one thing that allows it to happen; we can’t live in a police state to eliminate all danger from all directions.
Funny, but when the attack on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the plane of 9/11 resulted in thousands of deaths in one day, I thought as well in grief of a man who may have suffered a heart attack in an office building blocks away, a child killed by a car running a red light downtown, a young man dying of knife wounds in an alley half a city away. Nothing about their deaths that same day made it any less sad.
And the murderers themselves: what makes it more horrible for one man to kill thirty people in one day, than for a serial killer to murder the same number over a period of years? Tragedy is tragedy; and unfortunately, it will always be a part of the human experience. We can only grieve and carry on.