The sadness and the pain. and the faith.....
My sadness comes from things far greater than the massacre at Va. Tech.
The face of security in all institutions of learning - particularly institutions of higher learning - has been changed for ever. All colleges and universities will be called upon to develop and show proper plans of evacuation, lock down, preventative measures that can and WILL be taken in the event of such a tragedy - or rather to prevent such a tragedy, no matter what that particular institution's "crime record" does or does not reveal.
No longer can those of us who were not directly affected by Kent State, Columbine, Lancaster, or any other school tragedy, feel safe because now this is about us. All Virginians will feel this violation for many years to come. All alumni of Va Tech have been violated. All persons who have had friends or family at Tech have been violated. This is now personal. No matter how tragic the events of the other schools, this touched our home.
We can no longer feel safe in the skins to which we have become accustomed. We lead our children to believe in the inherent good of all people and the opportunities that should be available to all those who avail themselves by way of hard work, determination and the reward of good grades and a sharp mind. They have questions now. They want to know why. We are the patriarchs and matriarchs of their generation and we don't have answers. Not only do we now question our own ideas and ideals, but our children who are looking for answers, will wonder why we have no answers. We will feel a sense of loss with our own children too.
There now will be question to every College and University President, every school principal, every security officer, "Why didn't they do more." They did exactly what they could do, exactly what they should have done and exactly what was necessary. It turned out to be larger than originally thought and there was no way anyone could have determined this. Unfortunately, that also means that no matter what we do, no matter what we say, no matter what we teach our children, we can never have all the answers. This is a rude awakening not only to our children, but to us, as their parents. We are their heroes and suddenly, we are now human - and therefore fallible.
We are now introspective. Sad, somewhat depressed. We are thoughtful now about those things that are most important to us. We feel a fierce sense of obligation and drive to protect. We have a huge amount of not just sadness but anger. We want payment - retribution - someone to somehow make it right and set the "natural order" back again. And it can't. No matter what we do, we can't make it all right ever again. We can take a step back and ensure that no matter who, no matter what, no matter the situation, more than ever it is important to recognize the value of the lives of those most important to us. With our thoughts, our actions, our responsibilities and most importantly, our follow through, we must ensure that those about whom we care most are keenly aware of our feelings.
We must also make sure that our children understand that life MUST go on. We must always remember that our goodness is ultimately our reward, no matter how untimely. We have to continue striving to be the best we can be. We have to remember that not all people are sick. That of all the places in the world to go, to learn, to live, this is a blip on the radar. To us it is magnanimous, but in the grand scheme of things, this is outrageously small. With the number of schools, the number of colleges and universities, the number of shopping malls, grocery stores, ball fields and parks, this is minute. We are still safe. We really are. We probably are just as safe walking out of our homes today as we were yesterday. We will grieve and we will learn and we will move on. Our character will strengthen and we will become better people as a result of having had the influence of this tragedy. We will teach our children how to trust. We will remember how to go on and feel gladness, joy, love, friendship, and life. It's still inside us. We will just have to reach a little deeper, try a little harder to remember. It's there where it always was. In our hearts where life is always a little better.
The steps of grief, those steps with which you and I as children who have lost parents are terribly familiar, are those we will once again have to take. Though we have not lost relatives or friends, we have lost family members. We have lost innocence. We have lost a bit of joy and reverence. We have to grieve those things in order to heal. And we must be there for those who have never had to endure this loss. We have to share our strength, our knowledge and our faith that we can move forward.
We have to grow in our own faith as we're tested beyond measure, and what a tremendous test of faith. In the words of a smart little 6 year old this morning, "Mommy, this sad thing happened and it is a sad thing. But mommy, those people will live forever. They will always be in our hearts where nothing bad will ever ever happen again to them. They will always be our heroes, Mommy. And we will always love them."
Enough to stop you in your tracks and feel brave again. To know that one day when I'm done being sad and scared and angry and struck by this horror, I will once again be brave. I will once again let my children go into the future with the knowledge that the world is inherently good. That truly, tomorrow could be our day and what is most important is that we have lived today the very best we possibly could. Remembering to keep the faith and spend some time on our knees.