Today's school shooting is so hard to comprehend. Several young children are dead. A man walked into an elementray school and killed several people. The news has been quick to point out that this ranks as the second deadliest school shooting of all time, after the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007. Hearing talk of Virginia Tech got me reflecting back to April 16, 2007. I was a college student an hour down the road from Virginia Tech that day.
I remember that day, and more specificially the morning after, vividly. This was back in the days before Twitter and smartphones and constantly being connected to the world. I had a gray flip phone that didn't even take pictures. But you could play blackjack on it...
I woke up and went about my day. As I was walking through the student center I noticed that CNN was on one of the televisions and first noticed what was going on at Tech. I continued my day and then watched some more CNN in my room later that afternoon, trying to absorb what was going on.
I was the News Editor of The Concordian, Concord University's newspaper. I was the #2 in charge, behind LeAnne Davis, the Editor-in-Chief. The newspaper staff met weekly every Monday evening. Virginia Tech was the main point of discussion, obviously.
With a weekly newspaper, you don't really deal with much breaking news. The Virginia Tech shooting happened on Monday. The newspaper's deadline was Tuesday morning, to be printed Wednesday. So, that was a topic of discussion as well. But, what would we do? It was then decided to wait a week and let more information come out before we made any move.
Tuesday morning, we had an unofficial meeting in the newspaper office between myself, LeAnne, and Cory Williams, the newspaper's faculty advisor. He had printed off some news articles about VT and more information had finally become available. We now knew that at least 30 people had died. I distinctly remember Cory Williams saying, "This is big. We have to do something."
There were two places in the newspaper to do something - the front page and the opinion section. I don't remember how we decided who would do what, but LeAnne interviewed Concord's head of campus police and wrote a front-page piece about how they were making sure Concord was safe. I took to the opinion section and wrote something.
That's kind of how I look at it. It is what it is. It's "something." Some people told me they liked it. I wrote it not even 24 hours after something so horrific and scary. And I didn't know what to say. I usually try to write to a large audience, so that everybody can relate to it. In this instance, though, I wrote directly to college students. I tried to maintain a serious tone and tried to throw in a little humor, but not too much to make light of the situation. I wanted people reading it to understand how serious things were, but I also wanted them to smile at least once. I felt like people needed to smile and wanted to do my part.
What I wrote April 17, 2007, is below. You can see for yourself if I accomplished what I set out to do.
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Originally published April 18, 2007; The Concordian, Concord University
I woke up Monday afternoon (yeah, I know I'm lazy) not quite knowing what to expect.
Mondays are always my "interesting" days, with my Ultimate Frisbee mini course, newspaper staff meeting, and night class; not to mention the Monday night exploits of World Wrestling Entertainment.
Sadly, Monday April 16, was interesting for an entirely different reason.
As the early afternoon unfolded for me and I watched CNN in my room and realized just what had happened an hour down the road at Virginia Tech, I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
As of Tuesday morning, there are over 30 Virginia Tech students dead as a result of a shooting.
Personally, I don’t have any immediate friends who are students at Virginia Tech, but my heart obviously goes out to them.
It has to.
This situation is different for college students as opposed to older generations. An older person will watch this and say, "Some kids died."
I watch this and think, "I could have gone to Virginia Tech; my friends could be there."
As least 30 of our peers are no longer in this world as a result of somebody with a gun.
It boggles my mind how things like this can happen.
A lot of people who need their families right now can't be with them, and it's sad.
My mother called me Monday night to make sure I was okay.
I think she called me more to make sure she was going to be okay.
I can’t imagine what my grandfather is going through right now.
My freshman year, a college student in Nebraska fell out of his dorm-room window and died, and my grandpa frantically called my mom wanting to know how safe my windows were.
My sophomore year, he watched the news one night and again frantically called my mother, wanting to know if I've had my meningitis shot.
Sadly, there’s no humor in my grandfather's frantic junior-year phone call to my mother.
There is nothing that we can do to bring back the lives of the murdered Virginia Tech students.
All we can do is pick up the pieces - like we always do - and try to go on with our lives as best we can.