Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech

I'm sure many of you have heard by now.

I can't imagine what these students, the families, and the Virginia Tech community must be enduring right now. I know that many people who only hear this or the news are still horrified and frightened. I think most of us do NOT hear this and think "oh god this will happen in my building tomorrow". It's a much more subtle fear than that.

Many of us see a campus as "different". For students at a school, your campus is very much a part of your identity and your center - it's not exactly "home", but it's something tighter than a conventional definition of "community". It's more than a neighborhood, or a collection of buildings. A classroom is a place to learn, or doodle, or sleep, or watch the clock until lunchtime, but is fundamentally a place of comfort - students are comfortable enough in the classroom to focus on more abstract concerns, be they molecules or naps or lunch with friends.

Incidents like this shatter this ultimately false notion of what a college campus is.
In this Virginia Tech engineering building, grad students probably showed up every day to sit at their computers, do research that excited or frustrated them, bitch about evil advisers, nab free food from the lobbies, and wonder about their futures as academics, as scientists, as engineers. Turning this wonderfully insular and learning-focused environment into a scene of fury, terror, and insanity is unbelievably alarming and obscene.

We do not expect that this will happen to us or our friends tomorrow - but we realize that it easily could have been, that our loved or lovably-hated campus community is obviously no different than anywhere else in the eyes of a maniac with a gun. We realize that our expectations and beliefs are meaningless in this harshest kind of reality. Most of us will go to school tomorrow, go to class, check on our experiments that worked or failed, and go about our day as students and academics. But we will do so with a jostled worldview, one where our daily surroundings are a little more raw.

I don't pray, and the words "my thoughts are with them" are too often thrown around - but I can't help but think of the Virginia Tech community today, and the students, friends, mentors, colleagues, and children that have been taken from them.

As other people are doing, I wanted to offer this space to anyone who may have thoughts or concerns they want share about this unimaginable tragedy.

1 comment:

Propter Doc said...

Yes, I think you hit on it here. I always believe that the campus is in someway a place of safety, similar to my home, but shared with thousands of other people. The people also share a purpose - learning or teaching or researching but it is all the same.
Everytime I walked out the door today I was haunted by the 'what-ifs'. What if it happened here? It scares me that these things can happen.
I have been thinking alot about VT today, they are in my thoughts, but I agree the phrase is overused. I just don't know what other phrase to use.