On The Events At Virginia Tech

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.


  1. Thanks. As you can imag­ine, there has been near­ly an end­less sup­ply of peo­ple – most­ly so-called experts and celebri­ties – who have made the media rounds over the past week try­ing to blame this on just about any­thing they can think of. Usu­al­ly I sup­pose it’s their pet-peeve scape­goat. I’ve yet to hear many of them just claim that it was a incal­cu­la­bly ran­dom event which was the result of some­one’s missed psy­chosis, which seems the only ratio­nal expla­na­tion to me. Then again, that leaves no one to blame but essen­tial­ly chance itself. You can’t fire, sue, or hang chance.

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