Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Outside of Blacksburg I doubt that there is no place more dedicated and devoted to Virginia Tech than the Roanoke Valley. Traffic is a mess during the football season when there is a Hokie home game and there is no where you can turn where you don’t see a Virginia Tech flag, car magnet, sticker, or article of clothing. One of my wonderful neighbors played for VT in his day and you can’t help but get in the Hokie spirit when you see his house decorated for the football season.

Just as the jubilation of winning a championship reverberates throughout my adopted hometown, yesterday’s tragedy filled us with terror and sadness. Three of my co-workers have children studying at VT. I called them to make sure that their children were okay. Thankfully, they were. I wasn’t the only one frantically making phone calls. It breaks my heart to know that not all of those phone calls met with the same relief I experienced. During my lunch break yesterday I went to a local mall to walk with a friend. The mall is usually full of activity. It was shockingly somber there. It was so quiet that we overheard a young woman on the phone trying to find information on a friend or loved one.

Unlike with the Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine, and September 11, I have always been a safe distance physically and emotionally from the tragedies. This is not to say that I didn’t mourn for my fellow citizens and their families. I most definitely did. It’s just that then I could not possibly fathom the affect such a violent tragedy has on the greater community. Southwest Virginia, which includes Blacksburg/Christiansburg and the Roanoke Valley, is a tight knit community. It seems that we can’t leave the house without running into someone we know or someone who knows us through a common friend. It was in this way that the Virginia Tech Massacre has hit home most directly for me.

I received an email this morning from L, a dear young woman I have twice hired as a contractor. She is the first person I have mentored as a technical writer and I’m very proud of where she’s taken her career. One of the first things I learned about L, other than that she is Greek and proud, is that she is an avid and dedicated member of VT’s Tae Kwon Do club. Even though L’s no longer a student at VT, she was voted to be the club’s treasurer this year. The whole club was like an extended family to her. L emailed to let me know that she is safe. Unfortunately, two of her fellow Tae Kwon Do club members were killed in the massacre. L lost two sisters yesterday. I grieve for them because I grieve for Leslie. Her world, like that of so many others, will never be the same. There is nothing I can say or do to change that.

I truly feel as though I am living figuratively and literally in the valley of the shadow of death. For how many students and facility will it be impossible now not to fear evil when they walk into classrooms or enter their dormitories? Who will feel safe this spring as the community attempts to celebrate graduation? How many parents now dread to leave or keep their children away at college – not because they are leaving the nest, but because they are scared that they might be killed? When will the fear of evil leave Blacksburg?

President Bush invoked our loving God yesterday. I do as well when I pray that someday soon the green pastures of the beautiful campus and surrounding farm lands will be what people think about when Blacksburg is mentioned. I pray for the rest and restoration of all of our souls. Loving God, do not let the sadistic act of one disturbed young man destroy the beauty of your creation in Blacksburg.

1 comment:

DD said...

Thank you for writing this.