I should say something profound about the shootings at Virginia Tech Monday. I’m from Virginia. My husband is an alumnus who wants his sons to become alumni.
But I don’t know what to say. Not anymore.
Not after Monday’s massacre of 32 students and faculty at this state’s largest university. But also, not after the Amish school slayings in Lancaster, Pa., and Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, and the numerous other school shootings that should stick in our minds but strangely don’t because, perversely, the death count isn’t high enough.
The irony is that, as monumental a statement as Cho Seung Hui thought he was making by murdering and injuring over 50 people, his pathetic message — whatever that may be — is lost in the overwhelming grief, disbelief and anger.
Sadly, though, someone is going to undergo a form of sacrifice in a vain grab at the justice that was robbed from us when the gunman took his own life. Understandably upset, parents are calling for the resignations of Virginia Tech President Charles Steger or campus Chief of Police Wendell Flinchum. And, as expected, the debate over gun control is already heating up as more information trickles into the media.
There is no doubt there will be plenty of people who have plenty to say in the coming weeks, plenty of finger pointing and suppositions and none of it will mean a thing. What all the experts and profilers and pundits don’t want to admit is that there is no way to control or second-guess madness, nor the twisted creativity it wrenches out of what I have to believe was once a normal human being.
He is the one to blame and no matter how many posses we round up and scapegoats we herd, ultimately there will be no satisfaction or sense of justice. This is, perhaps, the hardest thing to swallow.
So, I don’t know what to say.
In the back of my mind I hate giving the gunman the credit for “The Worst Mass Shooting in U.S. History.” Infamy is too good for him. But I’m enough of a mother to know that he also had a mother and somewhere, living or dead, she is grieving also. And if she isn’t – well, there you have it.
As I write this I know that all around my state, high school juniors and seniors are being urged by their parents to live at home for their college years, as if that would make a difference. Many of these parents are sending their families’ first generation to attend college, an opportunity that public institutions like Tech make possible for working class slobs like me. (It’s a running joke in this state that all the paved roads lead to the University of Virginia and all the dirt roads lead to Virginia Tech.) Now that dream is tainted and, I have to admit, it’s my knee-jerk reaction too, just like I wanted to gather my chickens into the nest after 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing.
It’s even more gut-wrenching to realize I can’t do that. All I can do is show my boys my horror; to show them that, no matter how many times a self-absorbed, emotionally stunted maniac feels justified in taking out his frustrations on the innocent, they have to allow themselves to feel that horror. Because if you don’t you become callous, numb and more like the gunman.
Worst of all, having felt that horror, they have to open the door, walk out of the house and carry on with their lives and their independence – away from the safe little nest I think I’ve built them.
So, I wish I had some insight, some perspective to share with you that might give some meaning to what happened Monday morning, but there is none. I wish I could give you some handy tips to give your child when you send him off to school, but we all know there are no guarantees.
What I do know is that I will be a little less likely to become annoyed when my oldest leads me through one of his circular arguments that can consume an entire evening; that I’ll hug both boys a little longer tomorrow morning before they head off, even though they’ll roll their eyes and call me a clingy Sicilian troll. All the while I know that a month from now I’ll be back to business as usual, flipping a distracted “I love you” at them as they rush out the door.
My father used to say that when you love someone, you should stop at saying, “I love you.” No “I love you a lot” or “I love you this much.” Adding anything after the “I love you” changes the words; limits them to “just ‘a lot’” or “just ‘this much’.”
And so I don’t want to offer words that limit the impact of what happened Monday morning. That would be a further injustice to the victims and their families.
Suffice it to say: We all grieve.