Remarks about Virginia Tech tragedy

At Wake Forest’s memorial for Virginia Tech shooting victims

By Nathan O. Hatch

Wait Chapel

The author Joan Didion in her book The Year of Magical Thinking reminds us that “Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.”

It is, perhaps, our familiarity with the ordinary day on a university campus that makes this week’s tragedy at Virginia Tech intensely personal for each of us.

Unspeakable, devastating, evil, terrifying — these descriptions have been uttered across our nation millions of times since a windy spring morning in Blacksburg, Virginia became a nightmare that was and is all too real. Similar to the way we all experienced September 11, 2001, we are again at a loss to understand why and how such an event can happen.

We grieve for the loss of innocent life and for the families and friends of the victims. Dr. Kevin Granata, who died, was our colleague in the Biomedical Engineering Program that we share with Virginia Tech, as was Dr. Wally Grant, who was wounded. I ask you to remember them especially in your thoughts and prayers.

On a university campus, where open doors and open minds are honored as powerful forces for good, we mourn the recognition that each event of this magnitude erodes our freedom in ways both subtle and overt.

We are angry that senseless violence renders our society more fearsome and more fearful.

We are frustrated that, despite the lessons seemingly learned from similar tragedies, we feel powerless to prevent them.

How, then, do we find even a crystal of comfort or hope in this time of utter sorrow and despair?

As individuals, we find comfort through faith or through the wisdom of great thinkers whom we study or through sharing our responses with family and friends, or a combination of all three. An important part of grieving is sharing the story, whatever it may be, with others.

As members of the Wake Forest University community, joining together in this evening’s service to remember the victims at Virginia Tech is one way we begin to draw comfort, from being among our own and expressing our sorrow aloud.

We offer to our peers at that University not only our sympathy, but the pledge of assistance in ways they deem appropriate and needed. The scope of their needs may not be known for weeks or months, but if they call upon Wake Foresters, we will help.

And then, we can also use this moment and this experience to do what those in universities do best. We can seek the truth about the forces in our environment that lead to rage and violence, for only then will we know how to alter them. We can work as individuals and within groups as agents of change in whatever ways we believe will be effective.

We can and should memorialize the victims of Monday’s massacre through acts of living thoughtfully, courageously, and in the spirit of Pro Humanitate.