Monday, April 23, 2007

More About Virginia Tech

I went back to Virginia Tech on the Friday after the Massacre. Chris had been in Portsmouth, VA doing a rotation and was supposed to work this last weekend. When they found out he was from Blacksburg, they gave him the weekend off to come be with his family. I cannot tell you what a blessing that was. I didn't realize what a toll the events of the week had taken on me until my husband walked through the door of our home, and I rested in his arms, weeping. What a tragedy this all was. How alone and even afraid I felt. It is a crime that we can no longer feel safe in this world in which we live. And yet in that brief moment, I felt so very safe in my husband's arms. He was home. He had wanted to see for himself where all of these events unfolded only a few days prior to his arrival so we got up on Friday morning and drove over to campus. We first went to the Admissions office where I had worked less than a year ago to see those that I had worked with and to let them know that we are praying for them in this time. One of my co-workers was in the hallway and burst into tears. I hugged her and she sobbed. What an emotional toll it is taking on my office. Many of them knew some of the victims. And I myself recognized most of the freshmen victims, for I was the first person they would see when they came into the admissions office last year when they were applying. I knew their faces, and I recognized some of their names. How very sad. There were four victims from my church alone. This loss is felt in every facet of our community. We walked outside and many more makeshift memorials had been set up since Tuesday when I first visited campus, along with tents to protect them from the elements. Hundreds of flowers were strewn about the campus in various places. Candles were lit in broad daylight, and flickered, reminding on-lookers of the lives that had been lost. The buildings of Virginia Tech are all constructed of "Hokie Stone," a stone that is quarried in Blacksburg, VA. Thirty-two of those stones had been laid in a semi-circle outside of Burruss Hall with each of the victims' names attached to them. People were standing in front of the stone that represented their loved ones and weeping. I stood there with a tight lump in my throat and tears welling in my eyes as I wept inwardly, watching the grief spill forth from these families. It is only the beginning of grief for them. I only pray that it is the beginning of healing, as well. We were walking across the Drillfield, the large common area of campus, when we saw 2 girls holding signs saying "Free Hugs (and Hershey Kisses)." They walked up to us and asked if we needed a hug. I said sure and hugged them. I assumed they were students at Tech and asked them if that were the case, hoping to offer them so words of encouragement in return, and was shocked and extremely touched when they said that they were from Philadelphia. They gave me a Bible Verse, "May your unfailing love by my comfort, according to your promise to your servant, Psalm 119:76" and I sobbed as I walked away. It touched me so deeply that these students from other universities would leave their homes, their comfort, and come to Blacksburg to offer hope and healing to a wounded and hurting community. There are people here from all over the world for the sole purpose of facilitating healing. It moved me to tears. Here we were, hoping to be a comfort to others at Virginia Tech, and I, myself, found comfort in a hug from 2 complete strangers. I was comforted to know that we are being supported by the prayers of fellow Christians all over this world. How beautiful - the Body of Christ. We went to the large memorial on campus where the community members are writing small tokens in remembrance of those lost. There were 4 tents filled with large easels on which people were writing their thoughts, and prayers, hoping to contribute to and facilitate healing on campus. We felt like it was an avenue towards healing for our own family. Chris and I both wrote messages, and we helped Grant to grasp the pen and scrawl a few scribbles in memorium on the easel. I was so disappointed that in the midst of this poignant act of healing for our family that as soon as we handed the pen to Grant, we were swarmed with media, recording Grant as he scribbled on the board. This was part of our healing. This was private. And we were invaded. This is a major feeling across campus. We saw many signs asking the media to leave. I understand the media wanting to be here to let the world know how this is affecting the community of Virginia Tech. I do understand that, however, this community needs space to grieve and to begin the process of healing. It seems they are being so invasive of the poignancy of emotion. Our little family was stripped from an opportunity for healing and remembrance as we were being bombarded with questions, people asking our names, etc. A small act of remembrance turned in to a fiasco. So somewhere we were on the news. I don't know what I said...I sort of rambled, I'm sure. I don't know where we were on the news, and I don't really care. I was disappointed that it became a show, and felt so fake. We certainly need our space. There are no longer any gloves littering the ground. But there are lots of flowers and candles in their place. And there still remains the blood-stained sidewalk in front of Norris Hall that people pass by and weep.

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