I had barely got this blog going, or even found my sea legs, when it happened. The massacre on the Virginia Tech campus, right in Blacksburg, where I live. At first I feared it was terrorism, and then later on, after the video emerged of the young Asian student with his cobra smile and guns akimbo, looking for all the world like one of those suicide bombers shown regularly on Al Jazeera, I felt vindicated, even though it was clear by that time that this was the work of a Korean college student, not an Al Qaeda cell. A sad, and probably mad, weirdo student who had been in classes with people I know.
The I Ching reading I had during those first couple of days, when like everyone else, I was either numb with shock or weeping uncontrollably, was helpful. It advised that I had no control over the affair whatsoever. It suggested that rather than anguishing over these conflicts, my time would be better spent in improving my image: by exercising restraint over my opinions and belief systems and putting my energy into my effect upon others. It said to allow fear and anxiety to give way to truth.
So, no more secondhand terrorist fantasies.
It is just two weeks now since those horrendous events, and things are beginning to settle down. At least for folks like me, who didn't actually know any of the victims personally. I don't work on campus, and I live somewhat outside the center of town. But I can tell you that driving around Blacksburg during those early days, you could physically feel the pall over everything, the force field of grief. It was palpable.
Yesterday my friend Kathy Pinkerton showed me images on her computer, a slide show of photos she had taken on the campus drill field, the main place of mourning, where people had constructed makeshift altars, much as they had in NYC after 9/11. Flowers heaped up everywhere, and candles, just like at Buckingham Palace after Princess Diana died. I started weeping all over again at the incredible manifestation of all these outpourings of grief.
That weekend was the one-year anniversay of a once-a-month, Saturday night salon that convenes at my house, for the purpose of holding "deep dialogue" about the current state of the world. At any given session, we are usually about a dozen or so in attendance. That night, instead of celebrating our anniversary, we spent the time processing the events of the week and how they had impacted on us. Even though most of the folks in the group live in Roanoke, everyone had personally felt the shock waves as Blacksburg's "9/11" reverberated around the globe. The sheer bulk of press corps encamped in our community that week was astounding, soon to be followed by evangelical groups who swooped into town in search of recruits to "save." That is, until the students finally revolted and asked to be left in peace to grieve among themselves without interference. Their courage and compassion have been exemplary, much like that of the Amish community when they were similarly struck down, also out of the blue.
In the midst of all this, I had my roof redone. Mess, fumes, and hammering for two straight days, but then it was over. Sadly the book will not be so easily closed on the massacre story.