assuming it's us

When tragedies strike we always think about what we could have done, and what we can do now in the aftermath. I've been unable to tear my eyes away from CNN's coverage of the Virginia Tech tragedy. They interviewed the gun shop owner who sold Cho the gun 5 weeks ago. They interviewed some of his past suitemates who talked about how stranged Cho seemed but that they met strange people all the time and they never thought he'd do anything so violent. Then there's the fact that Cho shot two people in the dorms earlier in the morning and police thought it was an isolated incident; nothing seemed to point otherwise. So today, as the facts seem to fall into place, news outlets are looking back and asking the questions we all ask when something so unreal, something incomprehensible and tragic happens: what could have been done; what didn't we do? Where did we go wrong?

I suppose these questions are part of trying to understand. Why did some survive? Why didn't others? Why do these kinds of things happen?

We seek information and answers. But really, no matter what police find; no matter what comes out of the investigation, it won't be enough. Nothing will make sense. And that's where we struggle. When we can't make the pieces fit; when we can't make sense of tragedies in our lives rather big or small we falter. Because the idea that bad things happen and tragedies occur; violence is enacted; people are murdered for no reason at all is too much to bear. We assume it's us, as a society, campus, person.

Nikki Giovanni has been one of my favorite poets since I was 16 and dealing with some personal traumas. Her poem at the convocation was powerful in that it connected the violence at VT with global tragedies that "no one deserves." She mentioned Africa, Appalachia, and homeless people in America. She spoke of suffering and invoked compassion for all who mourn, for all who suffer. Anyone who mourns and grieves can connect to those who mourn their children, family, professors, loves, and classmates. I think this is the most sane, powerful message of what has become insane media coverage of the events. It's a frenzy that seems exploitatitive. Logos at the bottom of the screen and in between commercial breaks remind viewers that their watching coverage of the "Deadliest Shooting." Ominous music accompanies commercials for specials like Larry King Live and Anderson Cooper 360. I think to myself that it's a ploy for ratings and I will not continue to watch. And yet I cannot not watch.

On what may seem a wierd note: In my watching several things struck me about the use or lack of use of technology such as: the choice to email students warnings, the amateur videos of the shooting, students updating campus blogs and getting firsthand news of the situation, listservs, facebook outpouring, etc. Because if in our darkest moments we need human connection, in today's society that connection is more often than not technological. I'm interested in how comforting words on a screen can be. If my own words on a screen can hurt someone's feelings, can the same technology be used to comfort? Is it enough to say "my thoughts are with you?" Or is that another way of "almost" doing something, a way that alleviates my sense of responsibility and guilt that comes when I can't do more?