As some of you may know, I lived in Blacksburg for about 20 months while working towards a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech. This was over six years ago so I’m by no means particularly close to the university anymore. However, I’ve discussed a little bit about my experiences there as well as the recent tragic news with family and friends and I think I would be remiss if I didn’t say anything here as well.
Most of my time in Blacksburg was spent holed up in either my apartment (supposedly writing but often watching TV and playing with a young Harry) or off in one of the labs setting up and performing experiments; either across the bypass at the large structures lab or on campus in Hancock Hall. However, of my time in class, all of it was spent in Patton Hall and Norris Hall. Patton Hall houses the department of Civil Engineering and Norris Hall houses a variety of departments, mostly engineering, and classes from various majors. None of the professors which I took course under, that I know of, were hurt or killed on Monday. That’s not to say that they were involved and directly affected, I’m sure they all are. At least one of my former profs was able to barricade his office against the killer. It’s hard to find a way to be thankful after such events, but I’m glad that even more people were not killed or harmed given the apparent mindlessness of the events on Monday morning.
I do not wish to try and tie my life to these events as they are only tangentially related at best. I do not appreciate when others hope to draw attention to themselves or to their causes by creating some false sense of attachment to tragedy. At best this is misdirected empathy but more than not it is simple attention seeking and does nothing for those who are truly scared by such events. Rather, I would like anyone who reads this to spend just a few moments getting to know those who died on Monday. They represent a cross-section of what makes Virginia Tech so wonderful of a school and why it must go on for the thousands of students and faculty there. They are of all different ages, races, nationalities, and backgrounds. Men and women who seemed to share one thing in common: a desire to explore the world through learning. I did not know anyone involved but I can say that I feel that the world is dimmer without them. Everyone deserves to live. These people seemed to be ones who made their school, this Commonwealth, and their world a better place through their lives.
Tragedy strikes all too often and all around the world. This particular one seems especially senseless. Unexplainable. Unreasonable. Far closer than usual.
Already, and in the coming days and weeks, people will try and attach this horrible event to their causes and opinions. Some out of true concern but most out of nothing but an attempt to turn sympathy into influence. All I can say is that this seems to have been the confluence of many small events that lead to one great tragedy. A troubled, imbalanced youth out of place who refused and rebuked help extended to him placed in a location where his obsessions could both be fed and hidden. Attacks on the many individual cards that made up a deck will do little good as far as I can tell. What happened was dealt by random chance as much as anything else. This is not to say that many policies and attitudes are not in desperate need of review and change. Only that the public’s appetite for placing blame isn’t likely to be satisfied with any one bit of this story.
I offer my sincerest condolences to the families and friends of those who were robbed of their lives in ways they could never have imagined. I also offer my condolences to the family of the killer as their burden is also greatly unfair. Even if we cannot find meaning in the deaths of these people, hopefully we can find meaning in their lives.