A lot of things I think will never happen again, happen again.
Oh, and please don’t think I’m wasting any pity on the gunman. Any gunman. Life is full of choices, and a gunman who opens fire on innocent people has made the choice to side with evil.
However, please don’t think I believe the guns acted alone. Just as a spoon didn’t make me fat all by itself, neither does a gun destroy unless a person chooses to use it for careless or evil purposes.
Let’s try not to put blame on anyone or anything but the one who made that conscious choice to destroy life instead of nurture it. The only thing that is to blame for this tragedy is the person who did it.
Virginia Tech, 2007 – Aurora, Colorado, 2012
I think that if we take the time and trouble to look around us, wherever we might be, we will see a number of people who are very much. . . alone. Some people claim that they prefer to be alone. Some people are alone not because they choose to be, but because their caustic personalities, or nasty whining, or vicious gossip, or incessant meddling, or some other personal choice they’ve made somewhere along the line, drives other people away. And some people’s minds have crossed the borderline between sane and insane.
Perhaps some of those overlooked people, those friendless people, those depressed, lonely, ignored, neglected people, can only be that way for a limited time. Maybe, after a certain amount of time has gone by, they either adapt, change, crack, or blow.
The incident at Virginia Tech had nothing to do with gun control, no matter how hard some people are trying to make it so. People like this student will find a weapon one way or another, and no amount of legislating or safeguarding or waiting periods will make any difference. This is not a gun control issue. This is a self control issue. And it is people who have no self control who ruin everything for all of us.
People with no self-control take up more than their fair share of an airline seat. People with no self-control eat all the Hostess cupcakes. People with no self-control talk in the movie theater, and they grab for things they want, and they scream and cry when they don’t get their own way. People with no self-control see no reason why they should obey the rules or, when they’re older, the laws. People with no self-control use their cell phones as they drive. People will no self-control have temper tantrums when they’re grown up. People with no self-control want what they want when they want it. People with no self-control tend to blame everything and everyone but themselves when things go wrong. People with no self-control never quite grew up somewhere in the brain.
And when they’re got it really bad, people with no self-control get hold of guns – or knives or tire irons or rocks or fists – and they plot and plan to kill people who seem to have all the things the insane person always wanted and couldn’t seem to get. Sometimes, these people with no self control erupt and whoever is unfortunate enough to be in their path becomes their victim.
People with self-control might think about doing such things, but they never would. All of us think such things at times, but the difference between us and people like this kid is simple self-control. Sane people – people with self control – don’t act on every impulse they feel.
Whether his anger drove out his self-control, or whether his immature lack of self-control caused a lot of the anger, or whatever theory or combination of such, he decided to do it and planned for it well in advance. This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment deed. He may have had no self-control (a negative trait in any adult) but he was able to delay the self-gratification of it for a little while. He also had, as do many people lacking in self-control (look at me, see me, see me, look at me!) a bit of the ham actor in him, and made sure the world would know his name AND his face.
People are also saying that if only other students had reached out to this student, maybe he would have found friendship and good company instead of a loaded gun. But students DID try to reach out to him, and he would have none of it. If you’re one of the people who is trying to put some of the blame on this guy’s roommates and classmates, shut up. It’s not their fault. It’s nobody’s fault except this guy himself. It’s not his innocent parents or sister, or anybody else’s fault. He did it himself. It’s HIS fault.
And what kind of hell must his family be going through at this time. . . . a hell just as bad as the hell the families of all the slain students are going through, but quite different.
Anything anyone says now is, of course, from the point of view of hindsight, and as we all know, hindsight is 20/20.
In reality, this student went out and bought a gun, and of his own free will, made the choice to take that gun and destroy some 33 of his fellow students, and some teachers. He then turned the gun on himself, thus ensuring forever that no one will ever know the real reasons behind his bid for notoriety. Yes, he mailed a lot of pre-made horrors before he did it, and made sure that his after-the-fact information would freak out the world. If there was anyone on the planet who sympathized with him, that evidence of callous diva-ness should have taken care of that.
Am I callous? I can be, yes. When it comes to the lives of my students, or my children, or my friends, or anyone I love, I can be very callous indeed. If someone threatened any of you, you can bet I would do whatever I could to take that person down. Yes, I could kill him myself, if it would save others. I could take out someone who broke into my house or my car OR MY SCHOOL, if they threatened my kids, or any of you. You will not see me shrink back or say something such as “Oh, I could NEVER harm another human being no matter WHAT!!!” Cry me a river. You wouldn’t lift a finger to defend your kids? Each other? Shame on you.
Ordinarily, I am meek as a lamb and the biggest sissy this side of Planet Saturn. But if someone threatened my kids or any of you, or raised a violent hand to any of you in any way, and I am there and able to reach that person, he or she would remember me for a long, long time.
They would probably gun me down as I charged, but you can bet that I would charge. At least, I hope I would charge.
All of those beautiful children, blown away by one student’s vicious insanity. Graduation was in two weeks, for some of them.
Every continent on the planet was represented.
And the image in my mind’s eye of that lovely man who tried to block the door with his own body to save his students will be with me forever. He survived one Holocaust, but not the second. . . .
After 9/11, people everywhere softened a bit towards one another, and tried to reach out, and help, and understand. Then some time passed, and people started to forget. And now, perhaps people will remember again, and this time, maybe they won’t forget, at least, not so soon.
The only thing that separates Virginia Tech from any other place is the arm of coincidence. It could just as easily have been our college, or your friend’s college. Or a grocery store. Or a kindergarten classroom. Or a hospital. Or a movie theater. Or your home. Or WalMart.
Let us ever strive to be kind. Everyone we meet is struggling. And all of those spams and forwards about how we never know when a simple smile will be the difference between life and death for a stranger? They’re true.
Let’s notice one another. Let’s smile. Don’t behave like a Bob Evans greeter (holy scheisse, those people are annoying!) but just be nice to people. Include people. Ask people to join you. Reach out. Make eye contact. Make it plain to someone that you are glad to meet them, and would be happy to join them.
Say a little prayer. Call someone you’ve been avoiding and ask them to meet you for lunch. Phone your mother. Send a card to your sister.
The college held a vigil Thursday afternoon on the main campus. The commons was packed, and several students spoke. All of them had the same theme: Love one another.
They plagiarized that, but I’m not going to do anything about it this time.
Sometimes, when a tragedy this large happens, and we are lucky enough that it is far away and involves people we do not know personally, we tend to not identify with any part of it. This time, it happened on a college campus, where all of you go every day. The location and the victims, this time, were far more personal for all of us. Something else, too. . . .
Sometimes, in the course of the class time, someone’s cell phone rings, and it can be annoying if it happens too much. I have never gotten upset over that, because you are all adult students and you have families who often need to contact you.
Now, if your cell phone rings in class, don’t be surprised if I have to wipe away a tear.
As emergency workers performed the grim task of removing the bullet ridden bodies of the slain from Norris Hall, their sad work was accompanied by the incessant chirps, beeps, voices, songs, birdcalls, and little bits of music from cell phones.
The phones were in the victims’ pockets, purses, backpacks. . . and hands.
Their parents, spouses, children, and friends were calling them to see if they were okay.
I don’t ever want to run this essay again. Let us all ever strive to treat each other with as much kindness as we can. None among us has a perfect life, and some of us are really struggling. Kindness costs nothing; therefore, we can all afford to use as much of it as we want. We can only hope that most people will want to be kind all the time.
And now my students know the real reason I allow them to keep their cell phones on during class.
My sincere condolences to all the Aurora, Colorado, victims and their families and friends.