Thursday, April 26, 2007

Other VT Memorial Sites (and fundraiser update)

There are two other VT Memorials in Second Life that I have not mentioned yet. One was set up by Perefim Cao, who created the original memorial statue that was placed on Info Island (see on back of platform in the picture below, and referred to in an earlier blog posting).

The other was set up by VooDoo Zheng at his sim, Shinning Light. I am a bit disturbed by the "graveyard" look of this memorial, but VZ has done a lot of work and I appreciate his efforts to memorialize the victims. There is even a book of the victims' faces, with a brief bio about them.

HSMF Update: To date, approximately L$270,000 has been raised for the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund! This is very close to the goal of L$300,000. Depending on how long it takes to reach that goal, another goal may well be set! The generosity of SL residents never ceases to amaze me. I have heard that there has been some controversy about VT memorial fundraising in SL; I am glad people are asking questions. I am not sure what Linden Labs can do, but it would be great if I could get a LL employee to verify that what I'm reporting is the actual amount. The money raised to date is not much compared to the private and corporate gifts rolling into VT on a daily basis (one of our former football players, now with the Browns, donated $50,000 - which is a lot given that he makes the league's minimum of $250K per year), but it will be a showing of support that is the first of its kind at Virginia Tech!

VT Memorial on Info Island Update: Abbey Zenith has requested that the memorial be moved from its current site. I will likely relocate the pictures/wall to the ICT Library location, but I'm not sure of the logistics quite yet. This actually coincides with the movement of the RL memorials - many of which were taken off the drillfield yesterday and placed inside, due to inclement weather. The use of that location for the past week has been imporant and I personally thank Katrina Sol and Abbey Zenith for their help in that effort.

VT Memorial on Linden Land (Fame) Update: Griefers have continued to be a real problem on the parcel. This is very unfortunate, but the irony is that had it not been for their idiocy, I would not have met with some of the Linden Lab employees who have helped clean up messes, and I would not have met some SL private citizens who keep a vigilant watch over the place. Among these are folks who make up part of the Justice League of Second Life. This may sound odd, but their activity has helped get griefers banned and have ensured that stupid objects do not get left all over the place. I have been very impressed with their dedication. However, it has been suggested that since the location is near a sandbox (griefer training grounds, it seems), that perhaps it should be moved to a private sim. I had the opportunity to talk with a man who is willing to donate a sim for the purpose of having the memorial. This is a tremendous display of generosity that, again, I would not have seen had it not been for the griefers' activities. So, though the intent of the Patriotic Nigras or /b/tards (whoever they are - the faceless, nameless cowards) was to disrupt, destroy, and harass, they actually helped me gain friendships and partnerships with legions of civil, sympatheic, and generous SL residents.

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.