Monday, April 16, 2007

A Wing And A Prayer

I walked out of class at noon today to hear the news of the horrendous tragedy on the Virginia Tech campus - the murder of 31 students and injuries to that many more. I walked in to school this morning, as did those students and faculty, eager to share in the learning process. During the hours of my classes, those who should have been in the midst of something similar were experiencing something that none of us can even imagine.

My classes are relatively small - 10 in each. It suddenly struck me that the acts of the troubled gunman in Virginia, had the scenario taken place here, would have wiped out both of my classes plus some. My heart goes out to the faculty members and students who must live the entirety of their lives with the reality of what happened to them today.

As one preparing to send my own child off to college in the fall, I also try to put myself in the place of all the parents anxiously awaiting a phone call from their own child saying that they are OK. With the strain on the phone lines, I can only imagine the agony that such waiting must cause.

I listened to a press conference where a student from a campus a few miles away from Virginia Tech asked the university president what things might/should/will be changed to prevent a similar situation in the future. This poor man, who was still trying to get a handle on what had already happened, gave an honest "I don't know."

Is it even realistic to think that we can prevent such attacks? In the past ten or so years our country has seen crazed gunman enter schools, from elementary to college, killing many innocent victims. Similar rampages have occurred in shopping malls and restaurants. The sad truth is that any day, any time, any place that we go could prove to be the backdrop for a drama like this to unfold. How scary is that?

So what do we, as a society, do? Do walk around 24/7 scared? Do we ignore the hard facts? Do we take matters into our own hands? Do we hold on tightly to all the faith that we have? Each of these possibilities is fraught with its own difficulties. What are the ramifications of a world where everyone walks around scared ALL of the time? Much will be lost to us. I suspect that we would shy away from people, not trusting anyone. We would not venture far from our own homes, thus missing all that good that life has to offer. What kind of life would we have if we lived in constant fear? I can safely say that I would be miserable.

On the other hand, we can not ignore the fact that all that happens in our world is not good. I don't wish the devastating events of today on any other human being. But generally speaking, if all that we experience all the time is good, the blessing of things good is weakened. I really believe that we need the "not so good" for balance, to make us appreciate all that is good.

And taking matters into our hands . . .I am fairly certain that this approach is what cost all of those students and faculty members their lives today. What kind of pain must a human being be feeling that he could deliberately make his way to a college campus, walk to a building full of innocent people, and open fire? What was solved by him looking for resolution by taking matters into his own hands? My prayers ascend for all those whose lives have been forever changed today; I also pray for the gunman. It is hard for me to say that and it is even harder for me to do. But, I must.

Tomorrow I will send my children to school and I will walk into my classroom and greet my own students as I do each school day. I will do so praying that we will all be safe but knowing that there is no way to assure us safety; and that in reality, what happened today could happen anywhere, to anyone.

With all of this, I arrive at tomorrow on a wing and a prayer.