Well, when would be the best time to commit a crime? Wouldn’t it be right after another one had been committed in another place nearby, when everyone’s attention was focussed on the first one? Such a plan makes enough terrible sense that even a person whose mind is diseased enough to do such things could follow the logic. And, as we know today, it worked — just well enough, for a shooter who doesn’t mind dying himself — at Virginia Tech’s Norris Hall.
So there will be an investigation of police procedures at Virginia Tech. And of emergency communications policy. And the endless American argument about gun control, a discussion so puzzling to people from other parts of the world. When something this large and this crazy happens, people want to find something concrete to fix, so that it will never happen again.
But “never” is a long time. There is only so much protection we can give ourselves against insanity.
And, as normal as it is to try to organize thoughts and assign blame, there is work to be done first, the terrible work those concrete activities help us avoid: the terrible work of grieving the dead. Young people with everything to live for. At least two professors. And most were engineers, those genial can-do people who love nothing more than to find out how things work and make them work better. Engineers, whose jokes are so goofy they really shouldn’t be funny, but somehow they are. Engineers, the unseen heroes of so much of American life, people we count on for so much, without ever knowing their names.
Sons. Daughters. Husbands, Wives, mostly students — nineteen or twenty years old, brand new adults who will never have the chance to become husbands or wives, who will never have babies or grandbabies, beloved children whose parents loved them wildly and never got a chance to say good-bye. Across the state, a frantic search for favorite photographs and videos, a saving of voicemail messages in that wonderful young voice, a planning of funerals, the kind thousandfold baking of casseroles and cakes for families who cannot bring themselves to eat.
Oh, beloved! Oh, dear and funny ones, serious young ones, confused and uncertain young ones and confident young ones — may the holy angels lead you into paradise and may you be there, in some mysterious way, everything God intended you to be here! Oh, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, grandmas and granddads! Oh, aunts and uncles and cousins and friends — you all deserved so much better than this.
We grieve for a thousand dreams that have been extinguished, we grieve for the love never shared, we grieve for those left behind who have to live with that terrible embodied ache that accompanies grief. We grieve because we know how easily it could have been us and how we have again taken for granted this awful beautiful world we live in. Today, may we remember, may we seize a moment from our busyness to honor these deaths, and to discover our own hidden places of resurrection.
-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts