After viewing recent footage of the flickering candlelight illuminating a sea of maroon and orange in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, I am brought back to a time, now more than ten years prior, when I stood shoulder to shoulder with classmates in a similar memoriam. Following a random act of senseless violence carried out against a school administrator, my high school, Wauwatosa West, went through a similar period of mourning. I can still remember huddling with classmates in a first floor physics classroom while police secured the building. In the wake of that horrible event, we too came together for prayers, for support, and to start the healing process, which continued through graduation and beyond. In that coming together, previous boundaries of rank, social class, race, ethnicity, etc. were broken, and we all just became Trojans (our school’s mascot).
Tomorrow I go back to my job of teaching middle school English after a five-week absence due to the birth of my beautiful twin sons. Just last week, my school community felt the sting of loss when a student passed away unexpectedly. I was out of the building when that happened, somewhat removed from the daily events of my place of work. It felt strange hearing about such loss and the displays of strength that followed, while I myself was a temporary outsider.
Then tonight, I received a call from my principal explaining that there had been a bomb threat scrawled on the door of a bathroom stall. She explained that school was still going to be held but gave me the option of avoiding what was to be my first day back in over a month. After being assured the threat was not found to be credible and that the building had been secured, I talked things over with my wife and decided it was time for me to go back. I was disgusted that someone had disrupted the healing process, and I was determined not to give attention to this senseless distraction.
I believe that there is healing to be found in the wake of tragedy. This time can heal old wounds and break down existing boundaries. As clichéd as it may be, we are living in turbulent times, and we are all in need of respite. In order for that relief to come about, we have a responsibility, personally and collectively, to come together, calming the waves rather than stirring the waters.
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