Deadly Anniversary At Virginia Tech

Opinion / Apr. 20, 2017 10:31am EDT

Note: This Monday marked the 10th anniversary of the deadly rampage on the campus of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, known as Virginia Tech, when a mentally ill student shot to death 32 people on campus, in one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. The following was printed as a Herald editorial on Thursday of that week.

It came as a shock, as we tuned into the television coverage of Sunday’s shooting, to see the placards around the bereaved campus emblazoned with the letters “VT.”

Of course, of course—the college where the tragedy occurred was Virginia Tech, and of course its nickname was VT.

Still, when we turned on the television and saw all those VT signs, we thought for a moment that we were watching a program about ourselves, about our Vermont, our VT.

And—of course—it turned out that we were. We were indeed watching a show about us, about ourselves. Not a show about something that happened somewhere else, to someone else, but a terrible drama about things that had happened—were happening—to us. To our children. To our America. To our humanity.

It was impossible to separate the events that transpired Sunday morning at VT from our own world in VT. The scene was so familiar: this place of learning, these young people so full of fun and seriousness and life and promise. We knew them before we were even told who they were. They were our children.

We knew these parents. Some of them, as they sent their young folks off to college, remembered fondly their own campus days, the laughter and the stimulation, the new worlds to discover. They hoped for the same for these young souls, waited eagerly for their return each vacation to hear of more adventures, which stirred memories of their own. And some of these parents, who had not had the privilege themselves, had felt perhaps a little anxious as they left their young at these gates of promise, entering a world a bit strange to them, to prepare themselves for the larger world, which was called the future.

We even knew the murderer. He was the young man with the blank stare, who seemed namelessly different from other people, who spoke seldom and poorly, but nursed something inside, something hard, something huge, that alarming youth whose eyes were impenetrable from without, unseeing from within.

We all had encountered this young man, within whom something did not click, who had connected only with the disconnected but continuous stream of inhumanity that pours from the ether of our culture, some of it actual news of the world, some of it manufactured for our taste, as if we craved more conflict and alienation, as if there were not trouble enough already abroad in the land.

Unspeakable events like the one at Virginia Tech have exploded often enough now that we know them indeed. In fact, we own them. We own the unbearable individual sadnesses, the general despair, the incomprehensibility of it all. We own also a nagging revulsion for what this nation of promise has harbored, hoping that this is not what we have become.

Yes indeed. VT is VT.

-M.D. Drysdale

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