Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The most important question to me...

The closer we have gotten to the one year anniversary of the tragic events of 4-16-07, the more I have thought about what it means to me. First, since that time, my wife and I have had a baby - a little girl - and she is such a joy. From time to time I get really sad in thinking about what it must have been like to have been a father of one of those young ladies murdered last year. I am brought to tears every time I think of what I would do if someone told me that my little girl wasn't coming home any more. The other thing that lingers - and will stay with me all my life - is the heroism of Dr. Liviu Librescu. In his life, he was an accomplished scholar - I hope to live up to what I'm sure would be his expectations of an academic.

But it is his death that speaks to me most strongly. At one point, I left a paper near his memorial stone (it was the day the Yankees visited), on which I wrote (as I recall), "There are many questions from 4-16-07; many remain unanswered. To me, only one matters, "Would I stand in front of that door?" I signed it "Educators everywhere." I have not idea how long it was there - or even if any of the visitors saw it. But, as a teacher - it is the one burning question that overrides all other debates. WOULD I STAND IN FRONT OF THE DOOR? Dr. Librescu laid down his life for his students. This man, this scholar, father, husband, grandfather, survivor - he did the right thing. Would I? I hope I would - I hope I'd have his strength.

In John Donne's famous Meditation XVII (http://www.readprint.com/work-519/John-Donne), he talks about how that each person, while he or she is alive, has "gold" that cannot be spent, "Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it..." When we learn of a man's death(the bell that tolls), the passing takes out that person's gold puts into a useful form for us, the living. Dr. Librescu's action that day is my gold, and I will treasure it forever. Thank you so much sir, for your commitment to your students.

When I was talking to the young people at Torgersen Hall a couple of weeks ago, I looked at their faces and I felt so strongly why it is I am in education, and why I love teaching and learning - it is the because of the bright young students in our classroom. They are worth our investment.

Some thoughts and links as we approach 4.16.08

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of a tragedy that many of us still find hard to imagine actually happened on our campus. I will probably take some pictures at Memorial Park and post them to mark it. A new movie has been created about the SL memorial:

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of talking to a group of students at Virginia Tech who were part of a class working on digital archives related to the event and its aftermath [http://www.dl-vt-416.org/]. My talk was about the memorial in Second Life, and I talked a bit about Second Life itself (mentioned the "weird" along with that which reflects RL). I was a bit long winded, but everyone seemed interested - lots of good questions. One person asked why, on the memorial marker designated for the shooter, was a picture of the South Korean flag displayed. I could tell that it was something that he felt was not appropriate, given that no other flags appeared. I told him that the flag was represent the shooter, as I did not want to display his face (nor will I). I should have also mentioned that the flag represented victims - his family was a victim, and certainly many South Koreans felt victimized by his violence. However, I told him that I would cover it up out of respect - I did that last week. Since the flag might be interpreted as blame, I can see his point. I am glad he mentioned it, as the point of the memorial is not to hurt or offend anyone.

Let me just say again how thankful I am to Mr. David Marston (of Maryland, USA) for his tireless efforts in creating, designing, building, and maintaining the VT Memorial on "Memorial Park." As I told him today while chatting in SL, his efforts are every bit as important as RL memorials and remembrances.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sadness for NIU

On Thursday of this past week, at 3:00 PM Central Time, I was just starting a meeting with the dean and associate dean of the College of Education at a university at which I was interviewing. Later in the conversation, they asked me (which many people do when I'm off campus), "How are things at Virginia Tech?" It's a question that is very hard to answer, because "things" are different for everyone. Most things are normal - every day life goes on all over. But one look at the Drillfield, with its half-circle of 32 Hokie Stones in front of Burruss Hall (the main administration building), will tell you that Virginia Tech is forever changed. The memory of the loss that day is strong still. I told them one lesson I had learned... namely that each person is a story, and that it is my job as an educator to get to know my students' stories, share my stories with them, and work together to learn. It is too easy in our busy lives to take people for granted. Incidents like the senseless tragedies at VT and NIU help remind us that we can not afford to take anything for granted.

The deans and I, of course, were completely unaware that at that exact moment, another gunman was opening fire on more innocents in a university lecture hall. Evidently Mr. ____ of NIU was seeking the same infamy of Mr. ____ (names not mentioned as they need no more publicity) as he committed suicide. It was a sad irony to be talking about our healing at a time when another school's grief had just begun. I actually didn't hear the news out of NIU until well into the evening when I returned to my hotel room after dinner. It brought back some of those same feelings that I had last April - great sadness and great loathing both at the same time.

The folks at NIU's Second Life campus have created a small memorial area, and I've put up a sign at VT's Memorial Park. I know the SL community will come together to grieve with the Huskie Nation just as they did for us.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

VT Memorial on 10/16/2007

Today is a day to solemnly observe the six month anniversary of the tragedy that struck Virginia Tech on 4/16. The university has organized what I think is one of the best way to remember the victims, which is through service to community. The project, titled "VT Engage" is a call for all members of the Virginia Tech student body, faculty, staff, alumni, and others to volunteer at least 10 hours of service to an agency of one's own choosing. The goal is 300,000 hours of service by April 16, 2008.

The VT Memorial in Second Life is still up, and I still find it a quite, peaceful place to remember the victims. The School of Education's Office of Educational Research and Outreach put up the funds to pay for a one-year lease of a so-called 'sim-void' for the memorial; I hope it can go on for more time than that. The permanent location is now on the sim titled "Memorial Park." The SLURL is: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Memorial%20Park/130/113/25

The Collegiate Times (VT's student-run newspaper) has some good front page article today. Although I was safe on 4/16, I still have vivid memories of that day and that week. Little things - unexpectedly - get me choked up and teary, though. The article is certainly right - we won't ever forget.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

HSMF Donation Delivered to Virginia Tech Foundation

On Thursday, June 7, 2007, I went to the Virginia Tech Foundation office in Blacksburg and delivered a cashier's check for $1,200.00 for the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. There, I met Mr. Steve Clark, the Director of Planned Giving. He was tasked to head up the HSMF gifts, with particular attention paid to "unusual donations" (here's an example of one inspiring story.) What's cool is that I happen to know from tailgate parties before Hokie football games! Steve is the I had already talked about the fundraising effort in Second Life just as it got underway (I wanted to be sure VT was OK with it). Steve knew about the effort and was intrigued by the idea of it. He was very thankful for the donation.

Logistics: It took a bit longer to get the actual check to VT than I had anticipated. All funds had been raised within a month of the start of the fundraiser. The delay happened for a few reasons: A) The logistics of getting funds from SL to a real checking account B) Time needed for a bit of last-minute fundraising, and C) me needing to make the time to go to the bank, etc.

But now it's done - and it feels great. All of you who contributed... thank you SO much!! I will be posting the picture of the Hokie Bird at the VT Memorial in SL, over to the right side.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Meditare senza retorica. Virtù del Memorial Park

An Italian journalist wrote about his experience at the Memorial Park. I do not read Italian well, and so had to rely on BabelFish, which is not the best means in the world - but I did get the sense that he entered as a skeptic, but left very touched. I have given the article to a colleague who lives/works in an Italian university in Switzerland. As soon as it's translated, I'll post it here.


Friday, June 1, 2007

Memorial Fund Update

It has been nearly two weeks since SL residents helped meet the goal of raising $1,000 US for the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. Since that time, there has been another $200 US donated to the fund. The actual money has now made it from my SL account to PayPal and then to my bank account. It takes about 5 days for this to happen. My process was slightly delayed due to the need to change banks at PayPal, but the process has otherwise been very smooth. So, next week, I plan to hand Virginia Tech's officials a check for $1,200. I'm excited about it. Of course, this is a drop in the bucket comparatively (the New York Yankees just donated $1 million to the fund), but the entire experience has been one of learning and healing.