Today marks one year ago that the worst mass shooting in modern history caught Virginia Tech and the world by surprise. 32 innocent people were killed by the crazed gunman, who then took his own life.
I was sitting in a conference session out of town when the news came to me. At that point, sources were reporting 16 people confirmed dead. Who could know that number would double?
Violence has a way of shaking us up, getting our attention, and making us think about the things that are most important in life. Today on the VT campus there will be many solemn remembrances of the day that brought the close-knit community to its knees. In the months that have passed since the bloody rampage, students have experienced the full gamut of emotions, from shock and numbness to anger to grief to hope.
In many ways, what was intended for evil has produced much good. Students have come together in a strengthened bond of unity. It’s funny how crisis does that to people. Countless schools and businesses across the nation have evaluated and strengthened their own security plans and strategies. And a large number of people have been reminded of the reality of the brevity of life.
There has been much speculation and discussion in the past year about where to place the blame for the shootings. Everyone seems to have an opinion about that. I believe the responsibility lies not with campus officials, innocent students, or even the mental health community. The responsibility lies with the gunman himself. . . a true coward whose name deserves no mention. . . an individual who carefully planned and executed his attack with special regard for creating legacy-building publicity for himself. We have no need to remember his evil heart.
These are the faces that deserve our remembrance today. And their families and friends are the ones who need our prayers.
Perhaps Henry Ford said it best:
Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and griefs which we endure help us in our marching onward.
May today be a day to look back. . . and march on.