Apr 17, 2007

In Memory Of...

I was listening to NPR on my way to rehearsal this afternoon. As they discussed yesterday's horrific events in Virginia, the sociologist they were speaking with (I think it was a sociologist) noted that this event will become a defining moment for the kids who are in college at this point - not just the ones at Virginia Tech, but throughout the country. It got me thinking a little (always a scary thought) about the tragic defining moment of my college life - an event occurring before many of today's collegiate scholars were even born. To them, it's a note in the history books; to me, it was the moment when I realized that, sometimes, things just aren't going to be ok.

It was January and I was a freshman at Smith. It was just before lunch and I was waiting around for the dining room doors to open at Ziskind House. The day was nice enough - sunny as I recall - a pretty winter day; just another normal day as the term got underway. At 11:38 a.m. on January 28, 1986, the Challenger blew up, taking with it 7 astronauts: pilots, scientists, engineers, a teacher.

NASA to me was the domain of no mere mortals. These were people who walked among the very stars and came back to share that experience with us in the limited way possible. Gods and titans, these.

I had always wanted to be an astronaut. I watched the stars, read science fiction avidly, poured over pictures of the 1969 lunar landing. Fates worked against me: I'm awful at math, I get motion sick very easily, I'm clearly no athlete. But, in my mind, there but for the grace of God went I. And I am ashamed that part of me was still a little jealous that they got to go. That, for that one moment, before things went all to hell, they knew they were going to space.

The poor kids at Virginia Tech will bear no such shame, I am certain. I mourn with them and their parents and teachers and the police responders. I mourn with the parents of the gunman and the community. I mourn for the loss of life; I mourn for the loss of innocence and faith. I mourn with the people for whom this will ever be a moment that separates before from after.

Take this moment and make something of it. Use this to teach yourself to count every day, every person with whom you come into contact as precious and important and as worth reaching out to. Remake this undeniable tragedy into something from which something good and fresh and new springs. What better memorial for the loss of innocence can there be than renewal of purpose and spirit and love?

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Blogger LauraJ said...

We live in a sad world.
Big hugs to you!

7:22 AM  
Anonymous harriet said...

I remember the Challenger explosion. I had just come back from class -- music history when the news broke. Everyone was wandering into the living room. Instead of the usual pre-lunch chatter, there was silence. The Virginia Tech thing is even scarier, in some ways, because the victims were doing something apparently without risk. The message is: it can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere for any reason or no reason at all. Your advice is good.

4:41 PM  
Blogger smileymamaT said...

Well spoken. I decided not to write of the tragedy in my blog, as I have 4 VT alumni in the family, and what could I possibly say? But it sits so heavy on my heart. So very well spoken and thought provoking.

10:45 PM  
Blogger Robin said...


1:46 PM  
Blogger Jade said...

I was in my music class when the news broke about Challenger... the teacher rolled a TV into the room so we could watch the news footage.

I am still digesting the news of this shooting. It is frightening, and my heart goes out to the victims and their families.

12:35 PM  

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