Category Archives: Virginia Tech

Monday Morning

You know, there are a lot of reasons people don’t like Monday mornings. They have to go back to work or school. They don’t get to sleep-in or make plans for a leisurely day. They have to deal with traffic and cranky co-workers and sleepy students or teachers. And sometimes they have to die terrible, horrifying deaths. Nothing like a kid with a gun to put a damper on a Monday morning.

Anniversaries are weird, you know. Last year on Monday, April 16th, something absolutely evil and inexplicably horrible happened at our alma mater, Virginia Tech. It was a Monday morning. I had returned the day before from visiting students and friends and family in Blacksburg. And then all hell broke loose. This year, April 16th falls on a Wednesday but as I sit here at my computer on this Monday morning, I feel all the horror and grief and anger and despair that I felt one year ago today.

I hate Mondays.

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Filed under by Malia, Virginia Tech

No Words

oc-christmas-025_crop2.jpgMy sister asks at her place why there hasn’t been much “coverage” about the shootings at Northern Illinois University? Specifically lacking have been blog posts. And as alumni of Virginia Tech, it may have crossed some your minds, why have we been “silent” about this?

I don’t really have an answer to that. I have no words. I have a bunch of feelings, though and yet feelings can be so hard to describe. I’m sad. I’m angry and frustrated. I hurt deeply for the NIU community because I know what they are going through. I hate that evil can take hold of someone so viciously that they would take out their anger and fear out on others and then take it out on themselves so that they don’t have to suffer the consequences of their actions. I really hate that.

As for mainstream media and other bloggers, I could speculate that since the tragedy at NIU was smaller in scale than at VT, it didn’t simply didn’t receive the same amount of attention. I could theorize that we’re becoming more jaded and “used to” this kind of thing. But I just really don’t know.

Despite all that, I’m encouraged and heartened by the outpouring of support that has come from VT to NIU. Dr Charles Steger, President of VT issued this statement on Thursday. I found (and joined) a Facebook group called “Hokies for the Huskies, Pray for Northern Illinois: We are behind you. We are here for you. We love you. Stay strong and be safe.” That is just one of many groups that has formed in support of NIU.

Though no matter what the “scale” of the tragedy, there are parents, siblings, families, friends, teachers and administrators mourning the loss of these students. There is an university community that now needs to heal. I feel certain they will prevail and come through braver and stronger on the other side.

More about memorials and support here.

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Filed under by Malia, random, Virginia Tech

He Said/She Said: Memorializing Violence

A few notes before we get started. First, if you haven’t already, please read the preface post before reading this post. It’ll make more sense. You can click the link or scroll down, the preface is the post immediately following this one. Second, these posts were not easy to write. They’ve been swirling around in our gray matter for several weeks and one version sat in drafts for weeks as well. It is not our intention to minimalize the pain, grief and suffering of those directly affected by this tragedy. These feelings expressed here are our own, these thoughts are confusing and hard to adequately explain. And in the end, there remain more questions than answers. Third, the comments on the previous post were turned off simply so that any conversation about this subject would occur here, on this post, instead of trying to keep up with conversations on two separate posts. Please feel free to express opinions, comments, questions, etc., from the previous post here.

180px-opus_blue.jpgHe Said:
There are three issues that I see that are a problem when it comes to memorializing violence like Virginia Tech is doing: 1) heinous acts and those that perpetrate them are given a permanent voice and are remembered, 2) there is a sense of glorifying vicitimization in the memorials, and 3) a permanent, altered perception of Virginia Tech accompanies any memorial.

Firstly, one of my biggest concerns with the way we as a society reacted and continue to react to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 is that we gave the perpetrators of the acts what they wanted: an audience for their cause and a reaction in our changed behavior. It is my contention that the best reaction to barbarism (once the event is over) is to have no reaction, a collective shrug and yawn, clean up as necessary, and move on. Someone who murdered 32 people should not be given honor or remembrance. However, instead of outrage at how someone could do something like “that dude” did on April 16, 2007, a stone was set up to remember him as well as those murdered in some misguided, dare I say politically correct, attempt to treat the loss by suicide of a murderer as if he were a victim of this crime who was worth remembering. If that is not enough, I point you to the tapes that dude sent to NBC in an attempt to brand himself as some sort of action hero. The producers at news outlets went along for a time. Thankfully, someone with common sense spoke up and said that showing the tapes immortalized such behavior, but I am afraid removing the images from public view was too late, the images are already out for any nutcase to take as inspiration.

Secondly, while grieving and remembering those that have passed on is appropriate, there are better ways to remember the lives of those murdered that day than prominently placed memorials. For example, a new jewish student center to be opened in Blacksburg will be named for Dr. Liviu Librescu, a holocaust survivor, professor of Engineering Science and Mathematics at Virginia Tech, and pioneer in the field of aerospace engineering who was murdered that day at Virginia Tech. Rabbi Elazar Bloom, who will lead the center, stated that the naming of the center was to “carry on Professor Librescu’s message of life and goodness over darkness”. He is not looked at as a victim, but as a champion for the good of humanity in his mentoring of students to his groundbreaking research in aerospace materials. His life was one well spent and one worth remembering, and I will certainly do just that.

On the other hand, there is a sense that the memorial at Virginia Tech will try to encapsulate the feelings of grief and pain associated with the impromptu memorial set up in the days following the incident, reducing and binding the memories of those murdered with the event rather than the accomplishments of lifetimes well spent or cut short at the crux of their potential. In addition, Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, during the dedication of this “intermediate” memorial, stated that this memorial was for the wounded as well. Why do the wounded need a memorial, they are still around? This, above all things tells me that the memorial is more about remembering the incident than it is about those murdered (or wounded).

Thirdly, as an alumnus of Virginia Tech, I am concerned that, rather than being held in high esteem as an excellent academic and research institution, Virginia Tech will be thought of as “that place where those 32 people were murdered” and the university is perpetuating that idea through its prominent and permanent memorials to the random violence that occurred that day. Monuments are meant for things we want to remember, things we hold in high regard or want to honor. I find no honor in the murder of 32 people by a psychopathic killer and it is certainly something that does not bear remembering. Remember and honor those that were murdered, but let’s not remember and honor the incident.

Malia reacts to DB:

It was not my perception that the 33rd stone placed in the initial, makeshift memorial was put there out of any political correctness or misguided behavior. Instead, I perceived it as coming from those who wanted to show compassion for the person who was so troubled, so misunderstood and so lonely that he felt his only way to make a voice for himself was through evil and violence. The thirty-third stone was not about immortalizing, it was about forgiveness.

I have to wonder what your views on war memorials/monuments are as well. For example, does the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial honor the dead sufficiently or does it only serve as a reminder of the highly controversial war that saw the deaths of so many innocent people?

Malia pictureShe said:
Back in June as we made our way north for our week at camp, we ended the first leg of our trip in Christiansburg, VA. We had plans to stay overnight and to visit with family members who live there. I wanted to go into Blacksburg to have dinner and to visit the campus of Virginia Tech. I needed, personally, to see the campus again. I wanted to view its Hokie-stone buildings, drive on its familiar roads, and walk the grounds I knew as a student. I wanted to see, with my own eyes, the outpourings of sympathy and love that came from all over the world. The temporary memorial in front of Burruss Hall of thirty-two Hokie stones which was set up by a student group. Posters, books, letters, pictures, stuffed animals, personal artifacts, etc., that were being temporarily housed in one of the dining halls. And community remembrances like the 32 flags representing the countries of the victims in front of a church on Main Street.

For me it was part of a healing process. I’ll never forget April 16, 2007. I’ll remember it much like I remember September 11, 2001. But grief and healing are personal matters and what helps one person can be offensive to another. And as much I want there to be something that remembers the thirty-two who were taken from us that day, I also don’t want Virginia Tech to be solely remembered for that tragedy. I don’t want what that young man did to be somehow immortalized. Because in remembering the thirty-two and how they died, his final act of selfishness and cowardice is forever ingrained in Virginia Tech’s history and how the school is remembered. Because in erecting public monuments, his legacy of violence remains.

Yet, I don’t know what I would have the administration of Virginia Tech do in this instance. It is much more likely that if the university officials hadn’t planned a memorial they would have been considered heartless and uncaring. Somewhere along the way between 1966 and 2007, the way we deal with grief has altered. In our culture today, we don’t want to sweep feelings and tragic events “under the rug” to not be talked about or dealt with. We want them out there in the open for everyone to experience, for everyone to feel. I don’t know why this is. I don’t know if it has anything to do with September 11 or not. I don’t know if it’s something that only time can answer. Is the fact that sixteen people were killed by a sniper in Austin at the University of Texas not well remembered in our society because it happened 40 years ago or is it because the city and the university didn’t erect grand monuments to the event? I wonder how the families of those who died that day feel about the lack of a memorial there for forty years. Did it help them move on? Or was it a gaping absence in the process of their grieving?

I guess the one thing I do know is that however we deal with grief; we must in fact deal with it and move on. We can’t stay rooted in tragic events forever. If we do, we slowly die and forfeit the potential that life holds for us even if that potential was taken from those we dearly loved. Life goes on and so has Virginia Tech. Students, faculty and staff have returned to campus and today have started another school year. Great things will continue to come out of that university despite what happened last spring. My hope is that it will be those achievements that history truly remembers.

DB Reacts to Malia:

I had no desire to look at stuff when we were in Blacksburg in June. I don’t know how restoration and healing can occur by looking at stuff people sent to the university from all over the country or at flowers and trinkets placed on small stones near Burruss Hall. It reminded me of that day and I don’t want to remember that day. The people and their accomplishments bear remembering not the event that brought about their deaths.

Concerning the university administration: my cynical side thinks that the university is erecting monuments to placate the litigation sure to head their way, that somehow showing care and compassion for the victims will win points with juries. On the other hand, there does seem to be some cultural shift that I can’t pin down either.

I echo your hopes that people move on and don’t let this define who they are, especially the university.

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Filed under He Said/She Said, Virginia Tech

Memorializing Violence

This post is a preface to our next He Said/She Said regarding the topic of memorializing violence. Comments are turned off for this post but will be allowed on the following post.

On August 1, 1966 a lone gunman positioned himself in the Texas Tower on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin and began shooting. He killed sixteen people and wounded 31 others before Austin police shot and killed him. Forty years later, “university officials added a bronze plaque to a garden near the tower as a memorial ‘to those who died, to those who were wounded, and to the countless other victims who were immeasurably affected by the tragedy,’ according to an inscription on the plaque”*.

On April 16, 2007 a lone gunman entered two different buildings on the campus of Virginia Tech, killed 32 people, wounded several others and then turned his gun on himself committing suicide. Less than two months later, an “intermediate” memorial was designed and the dedication for that memorial was held on August 19th. Plans for a final, permanent memorial are underway.

Do you wonder what the difference is between these two events and how they have been and are being memorialized? Does the difference have to do with what happened on September 11, 2001? Is Virginia Tech setting itself up to be most famously remembered for having the worst act of violence (to date) occur on a college campus?

Consider the responses of these other schools that saw violence and death on their campuses. A memorial for the victims of the Columbine High School shootings, which happened in 1999, is under construction but has not yet been completed. The memorial is not located on the school’s campus but at a nearby park. Westside Middle School, in Jonesboro, AR, has a memorial garden on the campus. It is located away from the actual location of the shootings that occurred there in 1998 and was placed there more than two years after the fact by a community group.

In the book, Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings by Katherine S. Newman, the author starts a section titled “Remembrance” with this thought, “If mental health is not an exact science then ritual observance is even less so.” Our natural tendency as humans is to memorialize loss. Many feel that memorials are an appropriate way to grieve and a comfort to those who will mourn for their entire lives. Anniversary services and remembrances mark the passage of time and ensure that loved ones who were taken from us are not forgotten. Yet it seems that there is no formula for remembering and memorializing, we only know that it will happen in some form or fashion.

But what else do we inadvertently memorialize? Does it not etch into permanent, collective memory acts of violence so devastating, so horrific that an entire nation and even much of the world was riveted to their television sets in utter despair and confusion over unimaginable tragedy? Do memorials not make the troubled, disturbed and lonesome souls that committed these heinous acts somehow immortal?

*Citation

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News du jour

David picture On April 16, 2007, some dude murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech.  As an aside, I call him “some dude” because his name does not bear remembering.  Now that proper time has been given to mourn and grieve, I wanted to go back to a post at Nashville is Talking that drew my ire.

Admittedly, on that day, I was not looking at NiT, but was trying to work.  However, when I came home early to be with my wife, I happened to look at this NiT post in which the comments were already in flagrante. I commented on that post because I was frankly surprised that there was such a lack of respect for the dead simply because of distance and supposed disconnection with the event.

The replies to me indicated that there was no internal control in some people and they would only respect the authority of the owner of the blog (Brittney).  This was odd, since these are such staunch advocates of individual freedom who were, in my opinion, not demonstrating the requisite self-government necessary to possess such freedoms.

Individual freedom in the absence of self-government is not a republic, it is anarchy.  I respect these folks that stand for individual freedom.  However, when there is no internal control over their own freedom but only a bristling exertion of self, it makes me wonder whether they are advocates for liberty or just self.

So, now to what I really wanted to talk about.  I made the comment that “There will be plenty of time for not fixing the problem later.”  That comment actually had nothing to do with guns per se.*  It was a general comment to the fact that bloggers like to fixate on the news du jour and never actually do anything about what they write about.  Bloggers are the biggest bunch of myopic popguns there ever were** who sit and wait to jump on their pet issue(s) and then rant about them and comment war over them until the aggregate blood pressure of the whole community is beyond the ability of Lasix to control.

I say we all take a chill pill and relax.  After all, the only two items necessary to sustain life are coconut milk and sunshine.

*I couldn’t care less about guns or gun laws.  Criminals who are determined will always find a way around any gun law out there.  The problem is never at the point in time when the gun is used in crime, the problem always occurs well before that, whether it is poverty, mental illness, drugs, etc.  Make all the laws you want and blather about them all you want, they won’t make a difference.

**me included

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Filed under by DB, link love, Politics, random, Virginia Tech

Flashback Friday Saturday*

Malia pictureLast month after the tragedy at Virginia Tech, I went looking for some pictures of David and I while we were students there. Oddly enough, I didn’t find very many but the memories came flooding back just the same. Virginia Tech (and the Blacksburg community) is a special place. I imagine that many of us have a place from our pasts that is unlike any other place we’ve ever known. They are the places that no matter how much changes, will always feel like home. They are places that no matter how long you are away from them, will always welcome you back with open arms and memories. So it is with us and Virginia Tech.

The weekend before that fateful day in Blacksburg, I had returned to Virginia Tech for a reunion. The sorority I was involved was having a 40th anniversary celebration (it’s the oldest women’s organization on campus). I had planned on walking the campus and visiting old haunts but it was a cold and rainy weekend so I settled for a drive around campus and the town. I marveled at all the new buildings, admired the additions to Lane Stadium, was caught by surprise by a new traffic pattern on Washington Street and looked longingly at a new corner Starbucks on Main Street (wish that had been there when I was!) I also saw so many things that were exactly the same. The signs in front of the residence halls and campus buildings, the signs that designated parking areas, “The Cage” where on-campus residents parked their cars, Squires Student Center (for the most part, though there have been some internal changes), all the “old” academic buildings and even the Blacksburg Transit (BT) buses.

It was so nice to be back and the only thing that could have made it better was if David had been with me. There were numerous times when I wanted to point something out or remark about a new or old site and yet, I was alone. When I got home, I told David about it all and what it was like but that it wasn’t the same without him because Virginia Tech is “our place” My entire time in Blacksburg includes David.

Okay, enough all that…the real reason for the post is to give you a glimpse into our distant past. These photos were taken my freshman year at Virginia Tech and are taken in my residence hall, Lee Hall.

This first one is before a dance, I believe it was Homecoming. David and I went to the dance with two other “couples” (one of the couples was a dating couple and the other were just friends going to the dance together). All of us had gone to high school together. I was the only freshman in the group. The guy in the middle (Jared) actually attended James Madison University and had come down to Tech for the weekend to be with his girl (Jodi). The girl with the puffy white sleeves (Melanie) and I were in Chi Delta Alpha together.
dm92a.jpg
And here’s one of just David and I.
dm92.jpg
This one was taken in the spring semester, in my dorm room. Tanya was visiting Blacksburg Jonathan for a weekend and she snapped this picture of us.
dm93.jpg

So there’s a little stroll down memory lane. Do you have any special places like that from your past. Where you went to college? Where you vacationed with family as a child? Let us know!

*Flashback Friday is a feature from a new blog I’ve been reading (and enjoying!) called ‘Twas Brillig. I started this post yesterday but…you know…life gets in the way of finishing blog posts!

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Filed under by Malia, Virginia Tech

Petition

alt va tech ribbonTomorrow, a petition in support of Virginia Tech President Steger and Police Chief Flinchum will be delievered to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors and to Governer Kaine. There’s still time today to sign the petition. You don’t have to be directly associated with the school to show your support. As of last night the petition had over 32,000 “signatures”. Here’s the text of the petition:

To Governor Timothy M. Kaine and members of the Board of Visitors of Virginia Tech:

We, the undersigned students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of Virginia Tech, fully support the decisions made and the actions taken by President Charles W. Steger, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum, the Virginia Tech administration, and members of law enforcement in response to the shootings at West Ambler-Johnston and Norris Halls on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University on Monday, April 16, 2007.

We feel that these individuals and groups, especially Dr. Steger and Chief Flinchum, have borne the brunt of unwarranted criticism by members of the media.

We understand that they did their best to make life and death decisions with limited information, and that they acted in the best interests of the students, faculty, and staff of Virginia Tech.

We support Dr. Charles Steger and Wendell Flinchum, and we want them to continue to serve Virginia Tech.

If you’d like to sign this before they close signatures (at 4:16 PM EDT today), please go here: http://www.wesupportvt.com/

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Filed under by Malia, Virginia Tech