This I Believe

Paul - DORCHESTER, Massachusetts
Entered on July 2, 2007

A Father Alone on Father’s Day

As the Virginia Tech massacre continues to fade in most of our memories, the aftermath remains fresh with those families who must carry on and try to reassemble the pieces of shattered lives that have been destroyed by the singular madness of Seung-Hui Cho. While it may not be the most popular opinion to consider, I think of what it must be like for Cho’s mother and father – the forgotten people in this melodrama – as they also contend with the death of their son. As a man, and a father, I am particularly drawn to what it must be like for Mr. Cho.

I don’t imagine many will levy blame on Mr. Cho for his son’s actions. For all the terror his son caused, Mr. Cho is an innocent by-stander in this tragedy. To me, Mr. Cho is just another father who probably did his best to raise a son and love him the way a father should. All fathers want their children to grow up with the solid footing of goodness and compassion towards others, and dream of taking pride in their children’s lives. I am certain that Mr. Cho wanted nothing less of his son.

Presuming him to be a kind and thoughtful man, I envision Mr. Cho wanting to meet with a father of one of the slain students and offering his heartfelt apologies for the atrocity committed by his son. How simple, and father-like that gesture. No request for forgiveness of a crime that he knows deserves none. No, in this sublime moment of father-to-father understanding Mr.Cho would want the other man to know that this deep sorrow is ever-present and will burden him for the rest of his life. He doesn’t want the father’s pity or forgiveness, just the awareness that he is sorry for his son’s madness and sorrier still for the loss his fellow parent must live with for the rest of his own days.

Mr. Cho’s apology would not breathe life back into the innocent students who unfortunately found themselves in the cross-hairs of a madman. No, asking for a father-to-father understanding will do nothing to assuage the hatred that all feel for this young man. Seung-Hui Cho is guilty of killing innocent people, most of whom he never met, and his own death was perhaps a fitting punishment and ending for such a hate-filled crime. But by ending his own life, he gave birth to a new and sudden chapter in the lives of his family and the victims’ families who must now learn how to fill the empty space that sons and daughters once occupied.

I’d like to believe that the other father would accept Mr. Cho’s apology. Perhaps this acceptance might allow both to take an important step towards moving through this tragedy. Maybe, it would give the other father the chance to see the goodness that the elder Cho tried to inspire in his son, and also help Mr. Cho understand that although this man can never forgive the murderous actions of his son, he understands the heart of a father who also finds himself tragically alone.