From a column by Madelyn Rosenberg is a free-ance writer in Arlington, Va., in the Washington Post:
I wasn't born in Blacksburg, Va., but I lived there most of my life. If my husband hadn't dragged me to a bigger city - "where something actually happens and restaurants serve more than hamburgers" - I'd be there still.
When I heard the first news reports, I wanted to get in my car and drive home. It was as if I needed to visit an ailing relative, to tell her one more time that I loved her. But my kids had school, and my husband had work; I settled for e-mails and phone calls to loved ones.
My last memory of Blacksburg, then, is from two weeks ago: redbuds bursting along the highway and in my mother's front yard. My children watching as the painted turtles sunbathed at Pandapas Pond. The fresh-mowed grass, filled with the promise of spring.
I smiled a lot and ate chicken and lentils at a new Ethiopian restaurant and marveled at the changes. It is law in a real home town that its children forever marvel at its changes. That is why I can walk along Main Street and still be shocked that the arcade where I played Caterpillar and flirted with Tim Harrison is now a college bookstore.
But no one who is thinking about Blacksburg now is thinking about the redbuds.
The gray stone of the campus buildings conjures the gray stone of a cemetery, and the maroon of a college sweatshirt is the color of dried blood.
My inclination is to write an obituary, though my home town isn't dead. It is survived by a lot of friendly, caring people.
Too terrible for words
From an editorial in the Los Angeles Times:
In the biblical Book of Job, the anguished hero is visited by three friends who attempt to comfort him by drawing airy and sententious lessons from his agonies. Of course, they end up adding to his troubles; Job endures not only the real pains of grief and sickness but the indignity of having his suffering milked for rhetorical effect.
For those who support universities' in loco parentis functions, the school's apparently unconscionable delay in alerting the student body to the presence of a gunman on campus is at the heart of the tragedy. Then there's the male-violence angle, supported by a shooter's apparent rage at an ex-girlfriend. Most pernicious of all, perhaps, is the request to put the matter "into perspective."
"I have heard many such things," Job says. "Miserable comforters are ye all." No newspaper is in a position to criticize anybody for capitalizing on tragedy or taking convenient positions. There will be time for both in the days to come. But now is a time to respect, quietly, the tears and the pain of this terrible event.
From a column by Roy Ferri, a teacher and coach at Virginia's Centreville High School in the Washington Post:
My daughter, Colette, never had a babysitter.
Before we knew it, 18 years had flown by. Our little girl grew up and applied to the one college she had her heart set upon - Virginia Tech. She went to a small high school, so she wanted to attend a big university. Tech is a beautiful school, nestled at the southern end of the Shenandoah Valley, with an excellent academic tradition. I was thrilled with her choice. It satisfied my desire to keep her sheltered and safe.
Four years ago, I loaded up a rental van and delivered my daughter to the doorstep of her heart's desire. In 90-degree heat, I carried garbage bags stuffed with clothes up seven flights of stairs.
Letting go was wrenching. Ours was a leap of faith beyond what most parents faced. Others had gradually begun letting go years before we did.
When my wife called me Monday, it was through choking tears. A gunman had opened fire and killed two people in the same dorm whose steps I climbed four years ago. He moved on to a classroom building and fatally shot at least 30 more.
Our daughter is safe, and she will graduate in three weeks. But dozens of her peers will never get that chance, and my heart goes out to their families.
I don't know why she was spared and others were not. I don't know if anything could have prevented this massacre. I have learned that I can't guarantee her safety or anyone else's. All I can do is be thankful that she wasn't in the line of fire and appreciate every moment I have had with her and all the moments ahead.
New media's view as terror unfolds
To, Rutten writes about the media for the Los Angeles Times:
Taken as a whole, the news media did a thorough, competent and humane job covering the massacre at Virginia Tech, particularly over the story's first 24 hours, when facts were most in demand and hardest to come by. That's actually not surprising, because we've all been here before, in one way or another; print reporters and broadcast correspondents know how to cover these events. Perhaps because the reflexes we use to respond to outrages like the Virginia killings are so well conditioned, we blow right past a normative response that deserves far more deference than it now receives - the simple question, why?
Why are the viciously unstable among us, the murderously angry, those inclined to evil for whatever reason, so frequently attracted to schools? It might not be an answerable question, but sometimes we need to inquire after the unknowable for the sake of our souls' moral sanity.
Perhaps the killers target our schools simply because they are places where innocent victims congregate. It is, after all, the outrage against the innocent that hurts us the most, and making others suffer as they believe they have suffered seems to be the object of these obscurely wounded men and boys. Perhaps they choose schools because they're among the few remaining open institutions in a society painfully, if necessarily, preoccupied with physical security. We Americans invest a great deal of social idealism in our schools, and it's painful to come to grips with the suspicion that our children's education cannot take place in a time of idyllic physical safety and intellectual freedom we would wish it to be. One question that begs to be asked is a particularly sad one: Do we exercise that wishful idealism at our children's peril -- and do we do so, because to do otherwise would be an admission of our own collective failure?
If there is a lesson to be drawn from our news media's treatment of the Virginia atrocity, it's that we're up to our neck in unsatisfactory answers and very short on the right questions.
Feelings of guilt by association
From a column by Edward Taehan Chang professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Riverside, in the Los Angeles Times:
I don't mean to suggest that there's no truth at all to some of the stereotypes about Asian Americans. It is often true that Asian Americans are hardworking or academically successful. Cho's parents probably did struggle to send him to college. Many Korean American students do grow up under heavy pressure to excel in school. Growing up as typical "model minority" students, many Asian American students find themselves having to cope with repressed anger, anxiety and rage.
Maybe Cho was under tremendous pressure to succeed. Or maybe his rampage had nothing to do with academic pressure but was caused by a failed romance or a deep depression. We may never know what triggered these senseless shootings.
I will not be able to completely shake my sense of responsibility as a Korean American for this tragedy. But I'm going to try. And when young people are stressed or depressed, let us reach out across all ethnic and racial boundaries and try to help them see that, in every culture, violence is not the solution.
Leading the way out of tragedy
Ronald Brownstein is the Los Angeles Times' national affairs columnist.
In the shadow of Monday's killings, Washington won't ignore these questions, but whether either party will grapple with them more seriously than Bush did at a perfunctory conference on school safety last fall is another question.
The redeeming grace of tragedy is that, throughout American history, it has sparked reform. The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Co. fire, which killed almost 150 workers in a New York City sweatshop, inspired workplace safety breakthroughs in the Progressive era. The 1989 attack on a Stockton, Calif., elementary school by a drifter armed with an AK-47 provoked outrage that led to the important gun control laws of the 1990s.
The ineradicability of evil ensures that we will never be free from terrible days like Monday. But we will compound this tragedy if we fail to learn from it.
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