Virginia Tech, Chez, and Paul

Chez had already started me thinking this morning. I had read his post and felt "normal" for the first time since Monday.

You can find his writing here:

Here's what I wrote to Chez today:

Thanks, friend. When tragedy struck an Amish schoolhouse not terribly far from Near Philadelphia, I was almost frozen with the sadness, the horror, the absolute awfulness of it. I wrote, I donated, I prayed.

When Virginia Tech happened earlier this week, I was appalled more at my own reaction than at the event itself: I had no feelings at all. I said to myself something like, "Oh, another school shooting." All week this has bothered me -- my lack of humanity.

Last night I had the courage to mention it to my sister, who confessed to the same response.Neither of us liked to think that we had become inured to the absolute shit that some people are capable of doling out.

And so I sit here at my desk this morning, reading your post, so beautifully done, with the tears rolling down the cheeks, amidst a potpourri of feelings: profound sadness at the loss of this lovely young life with all of its potential, thankfulness to you for your gifted writing, and relief that indeed, I've not become dull to pain and horror but rather that there is so much of it that it takes time to process it.

A couple of hours later, I heard from Paul who was struggling with different questions. He wrote:

Am I the only one who feels this way?

The Virginia Tech incident is a great tragedy, and deserves our prayers, but:

1- why is all the attention on the shooter and not the victims?

2- Don't 32 people a day or more die by violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, etc? Where's the prayer vigils for them?

Paul's questions are important ones. And they aren't rhetorical. For Paul isn't burdened by artifice. I don't have answers for those questions. I don't think anyone does, really. I can only use them as a start for reflection.

I was relieved, throughout the day, as I checked the CNN website to find they were showing pictures of the Virginia Tech victims, thankful that the focus was at last on them, and I hope that Paul will read Chez's piece.

I went back in time, way back, to Kent State, too. Joe had been a student there and when the shootings occurred he was on a four-year leave of absence from his studies, serving in the U.S. Navy. I remember being glued to the television, in disbelief.

I remember back at the time of 9/11, sitting for hours in front of the television, sobbing, but unable to pull myself away. The numbers were too large to grasp, but from time to time, there would be a portrait -- pictorial and verbal -- of one of the lives lost on that day, and hearing the details was wrenching. I feel a little bit that way today.

As to question two, there are two things that come to mind:

a. On the old Aaron Brown 10 o'clock news, midway through the program, silently would come across the screen the names and photographs of those United States military heroes who had died that day, that week Hearing the numbers has become meaningless, but the particularity, the names, the faces, makes it real.


b. Paul, if you want to start one, I'll join you.


Anonymous said…
Too bad all the news programs don't do as you say Aaron Brown's program did. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Sign me up for the prayer vigil (although I'm already including those souls in my nightly prayers).
Greyhair said…
Hi Nancy,

Personally, I think a numb reaction is perfectly normal. It's human to be affected by that which is familiar and local vs. that which is unfamiliar. It completely possible and reasonable to have a sort of "intellectual" sadness more akin to empathy, that is materially different than sadness that strikes when it happens to you.

I'll go a step further. When we expect ourselves to experience the same grief whether personal or not, we create a nation of fear. The personalization process turns each of us into "victims" causing unreasonable and sometimes irrational reactions. I've written about this on my blog if you want to get more info on this perspective.
Mrs. Goodneedle said…
I had the opposite reaction... not numbness but acute, searing pain and endless tears. I've been horrified since by the attention to the shooter his photos and manifesto. I've been praying non-stop for the families of these bright and shining faces that I've seen in the paper and on the news, for their souls and for the Va Tech family and the larger Blacksburg community. This one struck close to my heart, I know many affiliated with the school, with the area and have always felt an extended kinship of sorts for various reasons. I join all in prayer through these sorrow-filled days and seek God's comfort and strength to endure this pain and move forward.
Gina said…
There is no shame in feeling numb over this terrible tragedy, the shame is in living in a world that treats this as an everyday event.
Unfortunately we are living in a world where news reports of death and destruction have become so common place that we are immune to it. I live in the UK and every night the news carries reports of deaths, either here or overseas. It's getting to the stage where we are unable to take in any more and we just gloss over the facts.
i am sorry for those that have been affected by these terrible events and I pray that no other family will have to go through wht they are suffering.

love and hugs gina xx