One year ago today, 33 people died on the campus of Virginia Tech University – Seung-Hui Cho, a severely disturbed victim of mental illness, and the men and women he killed in their dorms and classrooms.
I just came back from a moving vigil organized by my friend Kay, a Virginia native whose friend died in the shootings. It was a sobering experience to listen to Kay and another speaker talk about the grief they felt upon learning of the senseless deaths of people they had known and cared about. As I looked around at the friends I love listening with me, I could hardly grasp what I would feel if the same were to happen to them. The smiling photos of the victims spread across Chapel’s Field were indistinguishable from the faces I see walking up the Rabb steps every day, and as we listeners were told of their little quirks and aspirations – how one baked a cake for his studying friends, how one loved to run track, how one loved to stick her tongue out in photos – it really hit home that these were folks just like you and I. Except that we are lucky enough to keep making those little moments that are worth remembering, while theirs have all passed.
I cannot really find the words to draw some lesson from the deaths of those who never asked to be heroes, but I want to leave you with an image I found particularly moving. As the vigil went on, the wind grew harder and began to blow out the candles set for each victim. Yet as soon as a candle went out, there was always someone ready to relight it. Candle after candle was extinguished, but the people working were always faster, until finally, for a brief moment, all the candles were lit again. As dusk came on, the vigil ended and I startted to walk back to my dorm. But for as long as I was able to see, some candles continued to burn, their flames flickering in a darkening night.
It meant something to me. If it does for you too, take a moment and reflect on those lost in Virginia Tech. Remember how lucky you are to be alive and have people who love you. Pledge to do something great for the world – for the 32 victims who no longer have the opportunity. They deserve it.