April 23, 2007

One last thing

For any of you out in blogland who are looking for something you can do for the people affected by the events of last week, here are a couple of links.

Hokies United (from whom I borrowed this excellent graphic)

And if you're a fan of collegiate a cappella, as I am, groups from around Virginia are putting together a compilation CD for sale, with all monies going to the above funds (all of it, they're covering the production costs themselves). Check it out here. Also, the Hokies United folks plan to have T-shirts available later this week. Keep an eye on the site for details and the design.

My goal is for this to be the last thing I say on the matter, at least here (hence the post title). Ultimately, it's not about me or what I think; it's about the students and families affected. So this seems an appropriate place to leave it.

As for me, I'm sure I'll be back to the moderately hilarious mediocrity you've come to know and tolerate soon enough. You can take that as good or bad news, as you prefer.


People with far more talent than I have written at length about the tragedy at Virginia Tech, what it means to the university, the students, and perhaps to us as people. With the exception of that first day, I haven't had many words about it myself; it's been more of a quiet sadness, watching the pictures from campus, hearing the stories of the victims, and enduring the words of those who would co-opt the deaths of innocent students for their own purposes. By the end of the week, I was just tired. I had run out of energy even to respond to the kind messages from people who cared about me. It got to be difficult to write what amounted to the same message saying, "yes, I'm fine, thanks for asking," much as I deeply appreciated the thought. I'm getting to it, but not quite as fast as perhaps I should.

I have to admit, the whole thing hit me a bit harder than I had expected. I mean, sure, I went to school there and everything, but I haven't been back in almost ten years and I don't know anyone down there, with the exception of a professor or two. But there it was, a surprising weight in my gut. It got a bit heavier as I read the updates, and as I flipped past all of the news programs, since it seemed like everyone in the world was broadcasting from Blacksburg last week. Well, everyone except Lee Corso, who I think we'd all agree would have been a great break from what we'd been getting. I'd have gladly paid a dollar to have Lee walk around campus with that Hokie head on. Okay, maybe two. Just would have been a welcome change of pace, I'm guessing. But alas, no. We got what we got, and I'd had enough.

It still weighs on me, and probably will for a long time. What has been amazing, though, is the amount of support that I've gotten from people near and far, both fellow alums and folks with no clear connection to the school at all. Friday, I saw a truly humbling amount of maroon and orange around DC, and it's all been extremely heartwarming. I just want to take a second and thank everyone for their kind words, emails, phone calls, blog posts, you name it. It's been a great help to me, and I'm sure it's been for others as well.

It's Monday, the start of a new week. The students at Virginia Tech head back to classes today, and begin the extremely long, difficult road back towards normal (or something that passes for it). I just hope that the rest of the world lets them.

April 19, 2007


Even to the casual observer, this is awesome. But if you know about the Beta Bridge at UVA, and how significant it is on campus there (to say nothing of the rivalry between the two schools), then it means just that much more.

As one of my close friends (and UVA grad herself) put it: "Amazing, wonderful, and quite possibly one of the signs of the apocalypse."

Which pretty much sums it up, I think.

April 18, 2007

I have nothing to add here

April 17, 2007

Because I'm not thinking about much else today

I've gotten several messages and emails over the past 24 hours, inquiring about how I'm doing. So thanks to everyone for your thoughts, I certainly appreciate it. It feels like a strange question, though, to be honest. I mean, I haven't been to campus since the '99 graduation, and like I said before, I don't still have any contacts down there. So my natural reaction has been, "Well of course I'm fine, I'm not there." But admittedly, the whole thing has been weighing on me a little heavier than I would have expected. It's really, really hard not to keep checking on the updates, despite the fact that I can't say for sure that I want to hear more about it.

Now, of course, we've gone from people talking about what happened to people weighing in with opinions about the how's and why's, and that's the part that I can't stand. Leave the police and university officials alone. They did the best they could with what they had, and no amount of second-guessing is going to be helpful to the families and students who just lost their children, siblings, and friends. The timing of the email isn't the point. The point is that, when police responded to the first shooting, they contacted the resident advisors within that building, had them go and check on their residents, and tried to contain the situation there. Who among you would have guessed that more was coming, and how would you have known? Even if you had, how would you have predicted that someone would wander all the way across campus, passing any number of buildings with people (and sadly, potential targets) in them in the process, to get to one particular class building? How do you cover a campus that large effectively in any case? It's not like Blacksburg has an especially large police force in the first place.

How do you get the word out? Of the 25,000+ students at Va Tech, only about 8,000 actually live on campus. That means that more than two thirds of your audience is beyond the reaches of any conventional alert system short of air-raid sirens, no matter what you do. That's just the reality. You do what you can with what you have. They had bullhorns and police cars and email and phone calls. They interpreted the situation a certain way, and it turns out they were wrong. It happens, and it's not a function of incompetence, necessarily, nor negligence; it's just what happened. It really burns me up to see people so eager to jump on the folks who were on the scene and trying to help, passing judgment from in many cases hundreds of miles away.

If you want evidence of how drastically your understanding of a situation can change from what you first thought, just go back and look at the reports that came out of this tragedy throughout the day yesterday. It's simply unfair to suggest that anyone, police or civilian, could or should have known more than they did. All of that energy would be much better spent focused on the people affected by the day's events.

Okay, I'm done. Sorry about that; got off on a bit of a rant there. I just think it's too easy to point fingers, as if that's somehow going to make things better. It won't, and it doesn't help.

On the upside, it's been hearwarming to read some of the stories, from journalists and amateurs alike, in the aftermath of all of this. A small sample: Brunch Bird has a good one, as does Stewart Mandel on CNNSi, and Hokie alum Hoda Kotb, a Dateline correspondent.
I could probably ramble on for hours about this whole thing, but I won't. I hope that the students and their families and friends are all right, or at least that they will be. I'm optimistic; one thing you figure out spending a few years at Tech is that the Hokie Nation is a pretty strong bunch. They'll pull through. I just wish they didn't have to.

April 16, 2007

In case you hadn't heard

The fatality count is up over 2o now. The latest reports say that number includes the shooter, so hopefully the numbers won't go any higher. [ed. note: total up to 32. Just boggles the mind.]

It's all so sad and disturbing, and more than a little surreal. I went to Virginia Tech. I was an RA in West AJ, and spent the bulk of my time at college right across from Norris Hall (the Mechanical Engineering classes were primarily in Randolph); Norris was where the Engineering Science and Mechanics kids had most of their classes, and where, at the time, the Dean of the School of Engineering's office was (and probably still is).

I don't really know what to say about it. It's hard to get your head around the idea that something like this could happen much of anywhere, but especially in a place like Blacksburg.

Blacksburg is the picture of a nice, small college town; which is to say, it was almost mind-numbingly boring a lot of the time. Most people who went there will tell you, "Nothing ever happens in Blacksburg." Sure, the occasional incident downtown, some trouble with varsity atheletes, but nothing any different from or worse than a school of its size anywhere else. It's a beautiful place to be, absolutely picturesque on a sunny day.

Sadly, not anymore. Blacksburg is, from now on, going to be That Place. What was once described as a quiet, borderline-idyllic campus settled in the mountains of southwest Virginia will forever be referred to as the site of one of the worst disasters a college campus has ever seen. Virginia Tech is now inextricably linked to Columbine and every other school tragedy you can think of.

Fortunately for me, I don't know anyone still at school there, nor can I think of anyone I know whose kids are down there. I hope you don't either. But if you do, I hope that they're safe and unharmed.

April 3, 2007

Don't You Think?

If you remember Alanis Morrissette from her Jagged Little Pill days, you probably had the impression that she took herself very seriously, was very earnest about her music and her message, and you were, if you're being totally honest, just a tiny little bit afraid of her.

Then she goes and does something like this, and..... totally redeems herself*. No kidding, this is brilliant. I might like this even more than the bluegrass rendition of Gin & Juice. Okay, maybe not, but it's damn funny.

* points if you can tell me where this came from; it's either movie or tv, but I can't quite place it.

April 2, 2007

Sometimes irony is subtle, I guess...

So I spent Saturday afternoon/evening at a friend's place, watching my previously-first-place Blog Madness bracket disintegrate before my eyes. That sucked. What's worse is that the games themselves weren't even very good. After several weeks of nailbiting, down-to-the-wire displays of brilliant basketball, we were treated to a couple of games for which by halftime the over/under was going to struggle to break 100. When Florida is playing UCLA, both uptempo scoring teams, and it takes almost fifteen minutes through the first half for either team to break ten points, you know there's a problem. And it wasn't even good defense, either, it was just slop. And after all the slop, both of my finals teams were out of the tournament. Another one bites the dust. But this isn't really about that. I'm just venting.

Also on Saturday, another sporting event got started: the Civil Rights Game in Major League Baseball. Now, I'm not much of a baseball fan. I pretty much avoid watching it on TV; I just can't seem to get into it. Live is a different story: I'll watch just about anything live, and baseball parks are usually great places to spend a few hours. But again, I digress. I think that a Civil Rights game is a good idea; Jackie Robinson should be recognized, along with the contributions of countless minority atheletes to modern sport. And furthermore, I think that Memphis is an excellent place to hold such a game, being the location of the Civil Rights Museum, as well as the place where MLK was killed. Good ideas all around. What struck me was this -

The matchup for Saturday's Civil Rights Game: The Saint Louis Cardinals against...

The Cleveland Indians.

If you need to, take a moment and read that again. It'll come to you.

I couldn't believe it. Do you really mean to tell me that no one, while they were putting this game together, saw the teams involved and didn't at least raise their hands to say, "Um, guys? You sure this is a good idea?" Assembling an event to commemorate the progress of an oppressed minority and including a team named for yet another oppressed minority. Effing brilliant.

I guess it could have been worse. It could have been Braves-Yankees.
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