I was sitting on the couch in my hotel room when I first heard the news. The date was April 16, 2007. I had been on vacation with my family in Hilton Head, South Carolina for three days, and things were going great. I was 900 miles away from the stress of school and feeling relaxed. The news reports hit me like a meteor: A student at Virginia Tech had gone on a rampage, killing sixteen of his fellow students and then turning the gun on himself. As the hours ticked by, the number of dead kept rising. Twenty, twenty-four, twenty-seven; finally the count settled on thirty-two. Thirty-two innocent lives lost! To make matters worse, I knew that one of my friends had been at Virginia Tech just the day before for an open house. Was she okay? My cell phone was not working, so I had no way to get in touch with her. I felt terrible. My parents and I were glued to the television for the next few hours as more details of the story unfolded. The news stations were trying to make sense out of a senseless situation. Obviously, nothing could justify the killing of all these innocent people.
As the day went on, I noticed something odd about the newscasts. It seemed as though they were looking for someone to blame for what had happened. Was it the school’s fault for not notifying students quickly enough that there was someone on campus with a gun? Was it the gun manufacturers’ fault for making the instrument of murder? Was it the English teacher’s fault for not reporting the tormented writing of the gunman to school officials? Some were calling for the
president of Virginia Tech to step down. To be honest, I was a little confused. When an individual is so hell-bent on destruction, there is no way he can be stopped. Pointing fingers serves no purpose whatsoever. Blame does not take away the horror of this random, vicious cruelty.
Don’t get me wrong; I do believe that when a tragedy such as this occurs, we should find ways to prevent future incidents. All colleges should look into efficient emergency notification systems. Maybe a quicker system could have prevented some casualties on that day. We’ll never know. Maybe with stricter gun laws, the gunman would not have been able to obtain a weapon. Again, there is no way of knowing. However, one thing I do know is that assigning blame accomplishes nothing. I believe that as a nation, we would all be better off if we came away from tragedies with a sense of compassion for those who are left behind.
If there is one thing I have learned it’s this: pointing fingers does not and cannot heal the pain. Only with compassion and understanding can we hope to overcome such national tragedies. We must let go of blame if we ever hope to recover. This I believe.
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