Can We Ever Be Truly Safe?

Unthinkable. Unimaginable. Unfathomable.

All words that can barely begin to describe what happened in Blacksburg, Virginia Monday morning on the campus of Virginia Tech. A lone gunman chose to kill 32 of his classmates as part of a rampage to answer for the problems in his life. A life that is not extinguished along with 32 others.

As I watched the cable news commentators try to seek simple explanations to this complicated event, they spoke with analysts, psychologists, profilers and political candidates. They asked why and how this could have happened and how it could have been avoided ( metal detectors, closing down the campus, calling for stricter gun control laws).

While the media and the masses will spend days trying to answer questions and come up with solutions ( at least until the next “major” story steals our attention ), this tragedy speaks to the heart of the great paradox of our country. While we enjoy great freedoms, they come at a price. The price being we are all at risk at all times to this sort of violence. It’s the contradiction that makes American so amazing and so dangerous at the same time. We want to experience a world without boundaries, but then we are surprised when someone stretches those boundaries to the point of committing unspeakable horror against his fellow citizens.

While we mourn those who were killed, we are all victims. Perhaps not by death, but we suffered a loss of innocence and a loss of trust in our fellow man. So now, we wait to see how we will react. Will we institute a form of marshal law that makes us all suspects or will we continue to live our lives with courage and refuse to live in fear of a danger we cannot know or see coming?

Let us take our cues from the students who survived Monday’s massacre at Blacksburg – students who demonstrated the kind of calm in the face of calamity few of us could possibly imagine. While I’m sure every parent would want to rush down to campus, caress their child and take them home to safety, I spoke with one Virginia Tech student who calls Mount Pleasant home. He told me to pass on his parents, friends and family that he was OK and not to worry. He says he plans to go back to class and continue to enjoy the freedom of getting an education.

One final note. I was listening to ESPN radio on the way in this morning and during thier top of the hour update, they reported on the campus shooting. The quote? “All the members of the mens basketball and football teams are accounted for”. Am I the only one struck by the insensitivity of this? Are they any more important than any other student-athletes, male of female? Just a thought.

( photo courtesy: AP Photo )

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