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.