Monday, April 23, 2007

More Virginia Tech Reflection

My grandfather, Bishop Monk Bryan, posed a question in response to the Virginia Tech shooting that I had never considered.

In an email to my family, he asks, "In pastoral years, I counselled some troubled people; what if I had failed to realize the possibility of a killer?" What if... It gives you pause, doesn't it? Surely we are not to obsess over every single "what if" in the past, but nonetheless, we ask.

In the most intensely poignant response I have heard yet, a VT admissions counselor named Elena Bryant spoke on "All Things Considered" on April 20th. Through her tears, she said

For me it was an apology, to say to the parents, I'm so sorry. We failed you, we didn't mean to but the way circumstances unfolded we know we did. There's no apology ever good enough to say, no words could convey the sincere sense of failure. For me being here it was just a way to say, so sorry, so sorry.
Surely, no one is blaming Elena Bryant for the shooting, but nonetheless, she apologizes.

A vast, sacred, empty space has been opened up by this horrific event, a space in which each of us is given a chance to think, to pray, and to reflect. For some, this reflection space has led to personal introspections. Others have found a renewed commitment to speaking out for peace and justice in this sacred space. For many, profound compassion and empathy have been stirred deep within this hallowed ground.

I hope that we don't waste too much time and energy criticizing other people's responses at this sacred moment. For example, I have heard some pretty strong words used against people who have spoken in favor of gun control in the past week, including some Methoblog responses to the GBCS response. But gun control advocates are just giving voice to their personal reflections in response to a tragedy that has affected different people in different ways. We misplace our focus when we attack each other.

We are all shaken to the core by what happened in Blacksburg. We are all sifting through our responses, trying to figure it out. We are going to come out in different places, with different responses. But for now, we dwell together in the sacred space left in the aftermath, each one of us processing, re-ordering, reflecting. And God is very near, in the midst of it all.


Elizabeth said...

Thanks for this post Andy. Well said.

Adam said...

I agree, well said. I always find it fascinating how our media/culture/the public reacts to these situations by saying "our thoughts and prayers" are with the families, which they certainly should be. But no one seems to get mad at the mention of "prayers" at times like this past week like they would at most "normal" times. So I guess the "Sacred space" makes room for the acknowledgement of evil and the response of people in the face of that evil.

Adam said...

sorry i put so many things in quotation marks....

John said...

For example, I have heard some pretty strong words used against people who have spoken in favor of gun control in the past week

There was a lot going the other direction, too.

Andy B. said...

John, you are right, there has been a lot of lashing out, in many directions.