Monday, April 23, 2007

VT Memorial on Linden Land

After the parcel on Info Island was full of memorial objects left by visitors, Robin Linden made a parcel of land available on a sim managed by Linden Lab. The photo above is an overview of the memorial: in the center is the landing spot, with a sign the reads "Remembering those we lost." To the left are large images of the VT student newspaper, The Collegiate Times from the week of 4/16. On the walls are large posters of the victims, along with links to their biographies as published on the Roanoke Times website. More photos of the memorial are located on my Flickr site.

Over the past few days, I have had a good deal of internal debate & consternation about putting up any sign for Mr. Cho. I tried to do this once, and took it down again because I was too angry. I'm still angry with him - and always will be - for what he did to 32 wonderful people, but I was beginning to think something was needed. My decision to put up a panel (pictured below) was not a response to the griefers (vandals), many of whom stood on the false claim that they would continue to attack if no picture of Cho was included. In fact, I was strongly resisting any attempt of any SL resident to put up his picture solely for the reason - for two reasons (at least). First, it looked like capitulation to the idiots who were attacking the parcel/sim. Second, Cho had his fame all over the world with his videos and pictures. The "Question Mark Kid" became an exclamation point over and over again. The victims, in my mind, did not get nearly the acclaim they deserve. I am glad to see that they made the cover of Time magazine.

On Friday evening, I had a conversation with two SL residents who were concerned about a lack of any sense of sorrow for Mr. Cho. They had erected a poster of him, which I promptly covered up with a large black box. This of course led to a discussion! The conversation got me to think again about a situation that happened to a colleague just a few years ago. Let me recount briefly...

A couple of years ago, one of professors - a respected scholar and a great guy - had a son (in his 20's) who had some substance abuse problems, etc. Early one morning, he was on the run from having stolen cigarettes (or attempting to do so) from a small convenience store. When a police officer responded, the professor's son beat him, pulled him from his car, and shot him to death. Within a few moments, the young man was shot and killed by police who responded to the scene. The tragedy shocked the community - all felt a deep sense of loss for the slain officer and his widow and young daughter. Nearly all felt anger and hatred toward the young man who killed him - knowing full well that if he had not been killed, Virginia's capital punishment clause would certainly have been applied. But for those of us who knew, worked with, and loved the professor, we grieved for both families, but especially for our colleague and his wife - the father and mother of son who perpetrated such violence. The tragedy ripped aparts lives of the victimizer's family and the victim's family. Ever since that time, I have been more sympathetic towards the families of criminals, and I have tried to understand the person behind the depravity or evil. I'm human - this does not always come quickly or easily. In the case of Mr. Cho, I cannot find it in me to post his picture. Instead, I wrote created the following sign for the memorial:
"The weak can never forgive.
Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

In memory of...
Not who he became, but who he
was beneath the hate and rage.
The peace his family knew
before April 16, 2007.
The friendless and unloved,
who felt dead before they died.
Victims, whoever they are.

Each person has to grieve in his/her own way and come to an understanding on his/her own about how - and who - to remember from this tragedy. On Virginia Tech's drillfield, there are 33 "Hokie Stones" that surround the review stand that sits just below Burruss Hall (the main administration building at VT). Whoever put it there felt compelled to remember Cho's humanity before I was convinced it was necessary. Today, during the ceremony to remember the victims, only 32 balloons were released - a strong message that this community is focused - not incorrectly in my estimation - on the innocent victims alone.

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