April 16, 2007
on not knowing what to say
I am a woman of many words, but I’ve found myself not having all of them within my grasp lately. When I try to explain situations to friends or write an account on this site, I’m often left without the right phrasing, or without any words at all. The descriptors are gone. The result, whether it be in my head or on the screen, is the retelling of a story akin to that of a five year old. This happened, then that. There is no color, no third dimension to any situation. Maybe I’m numb.

This is just how I feel today, about many things that are going on with me, but most specifically about the killings at Virginia Tech. I spent seven years of my adult life living in Virginia, and was only at Tech one time. The few hours that I do recall, those before and long after the tailgate at their Blacksburg football stadium, were a blast. Crisp fall air peppered with the smell of barbeque. Me inappropriately sockless in a breezy October. The roar of the crowd just exploding from the mouth of an intimidating stadium. I remember clearly that the campus looked exactly as you thought a college campus should: grey stone, ivy, towering buildings, trees, manicured lawns, students at work and at ease. Traditional harried serenity.

Although not at Virginia Tech, I recall attending 8 am classes, as I’m sure you do. I took an Honors Ethics class at that ungodly hour, and spent many a minute wondering if toothpicks really were an option for keeping your eyelids open. To this day I recall who sat to my left: a sweet Sigma Kappa who would dress to impress even though there were likely only 10 of us awake on campus. I sat in the middle row, the second seat back, in one of those small cafeteria-like righty desks that I’m not sure would accommodate my fuller figure of today. For that class we used blue books rather than composition notebooks and we had to sign an honor pledge. In the hallway joining that building to another, you could buy 50 cent fountain sodas from a machine, something I wish I’d stolen on a tipsy walk home via the railroad tracks. I remember just where I was, in the stairwell outside that classroom, when I lied to a sorority sister to get out of a drinking binge set for later that evening. All of these memories, vivid and intact, and I didn’t have to witness my teacher being shot in the head.

The media tagging things as never being the same for the students of Virginia Tech is a gross understatement, almost an insensitive dismissal of today’s events. I guess it’s like the difficulty people find in writing something on a sympathy card. Maybe they really don’t have the words, either.

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23 Comments:

Anonymous Jorge said...

Violence hurts everyone, involved or not.

It's horrible that it's so close to home, Mama.

In more ways than one.

It's times like these that I wish I could be a hell of a lot more than me.

Blogger Shawn said...

Things like this tragedy pretty much suck. I've been so lucky in my life to have never experienced the horror that so many in the world and here at home have faced in their lives.

Blogger SJ said...

I lived in Virginia for most of my life, and although I did not attend Va. Tech, I visited the campus numerous times as I had friends that attended. That was years ago....

But today, as I read the news accounts, and watched the media report about it on TV from my home in Colorado, it still felt way to close to home for me.

Everyone affected is in my thoughts and prayers. It's the only thing I can do.

Anonymous Horrible Warning said...

I just keep thinking, that could be anyone's kid, brother, sister, niece, or nephew. It could be me worrying that someone I love might be dead and I might never know why.

It's all very astounding. Honestly, right now I'm trying not to think about it much at all. It is just too big.

But your memory of being there is lovely. I live on the opposite side of the country, so all I've really heard about the college is the horror of today. Thanks for painting another picture.

Anonymous gorillabuns said...

tragedy, albeit it on a local or on national level occurs at an alarming rate.

i'm always waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop in my backyard as so to speak.

Blogger Gwen said...

One of my good friends got his master's at Va Tech and strangely, all day, I kept thinking he was there and wondering if he was okay. Even though I know he lives down the street from me now.

Besides the horror and sorrow and anger I feel, I wonder why it is that we manage to pull together so beautifully over tragedy--it brings out the best in us as a nation--but not over the simple pleasures or great happiness that our lives also share .....

And I feel inadequately worded, too.

Blogger e.b. said...

The thing is you did say it well - those wonderful blissful college memories are ruined for them and so many others.

Anonymous whoorl said...

This entry had just the right phrasing. So incredibly sad...

Blogger Mel said...

You said it better than this Hokie ever could.

I'm numb.

I can't stay away from the TV.

It's entirely possible I know one of the victims.

When you think it could never happen to you, it hits in the very heart of "home".

And you have no idea what to do.

Blogger Lord Fondleberries said...

i try not to write sympathy cards for the very reason that there are usually, at the time when genuine sympathy is requisite, no words to accomodate the situation.

instead, i seek out the person(s), when possible, and stand by them, so to speak.

often, i find myself looking at awe at the person(s): i watch the movements (or lack) of their eyes; i study their lips, whether speaking, or silently choking back the rush of verbal mess that accompanies tears; i note if they are able to stand or sit still, or if they are so overwhelmed that subtle or gross movements can't be helped or stopped; i look to see if their knees won't stop shaking or their fists clenching.

i try to infer whether they need or want my words. i speak, if needed or wanted, but only few words: i hope that my words are what they need or want to hear.

as i stand watching, i cry softly inside for them. sometimes, aloud, i cry after i've left them, when i'm alone with the realization of the situation overgrowing my thoughts.

Blogger DCchick said...

my baby brother is a freshman at VT this year. His dorm is right next door to the engineering building. Thank God he has a late start on Mondays, and hadn't even left the dorm yet. He's fine.

I couldn't even fathom it being your first year at college and away from your families and all of this happening.... first the escaped convict and then this.

Blogger Cheryl said...

Yeah. I so get what you're saying and it really is so sad. I couldn't help thinking about it while I was in class last night. Not that I think that would happen, who would, but it's more tangible in a classroom.

Blogger mrsmogul said...

Times are getting bad here in America. When I was in England at least i didn't have to worry about being shot at as guns are illegal there.

Blogger egan said...

I've nearly been rendered speechless on this awful event. Thanks for your take on this.

Anonymous molly said...

You said it well. I wrote about it today too because, well, how could I not. My heart is hurting today for all involved.

Blogger Amber said...

I was writing a different comment but it got really long, so I stopped.

This is sad. There are a lot of other things to say, but I think you said them best.

Anonymous KB said...

It's just so sad. And everyone is going on about the campus police, gun control and immigrants. God, who cares? Think about the families!

:( So many young lives.

Blogger A Unique Alias said...

I've avoided writing about this so far but I certainly haven't avoided thinking about it. My dad is a hokie. My entire life, I heard stories about my dad driving four hours to pick my mom up, and driving four more to take her back to his place off campus. VT was a staple in my house.
I work for a firm which specializes in engineering. You can't walk 10 feet in the building without seeing at least one VT hat on a shelf or an oversized VT magnet stuck to someone's cube.
For the past three months, I've had an employee begging me to get an internship for her grandson, who is a VT football player with a keen interest in business.

It is amazing how much damage someone can do when unopposed.

Blogger mysterygirl! said...

As I watch and learn more about the tragedy, it seems simultaneously more and less real. What a sad loss of so many people (mostly young but of all ages); how shocking that one messed-up kid could perpetrate such destruction.

Blogger M said...

You've described how I feel every time I sit down to write and every time I read what I've written, especially when it matters most, as you noted.

With incidents like this, I try to not judge others' reactions because just like you said it is hard for anyone to have the "right" reaction or to convey the gravity and tragedy of the situation. We each approach it with the angle that strikes us most and sometimes to others that appears insensitive or insufficient.

I think your words served you very well in this post, despite your questioning of them.

Blogger Kate said...

Good commentary on this. And a real trip down memory lane from my college days. I went to Rutgers. Remember vividly the 8am classes with a wicked hangover. And the blue books!

Words do seem insufficient for what happened at VT.

Blogger Jessica said...

I have a hard time writing or talking of such things because I am so not in touch with my emotions around what happenned. Thank you for putting things into words in such an eloquent way.

Blogger MKD said...

I caught myself crying today on the metro after reading a quote in the paper by a student. Lame sure.

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