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.