Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I fought off tears sitting in the teacher’s parking this morning. The radio talk surrounding the first anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings caught me a bit off guard. I can’t believe it’s already been a year.

A resident of Virginia, the media coverage and talk surrounding the event has yet to loose coverage here. To the media’s defense, there has been a lot to report: loop holes in gun and mental health policies, politician campaigning on reforms, new legislative proposals, student and professor features, parents wanting money, a state settlement, memorials, et al. Oddly, this media grind has allowed me to detach, at least emotionally.

Aside from a few friends that graduated from Tech, I have no connection to the school. It isn’t really significant that my only visit to the campus took place exactly one month preceding the shootings. I stood on the Drill Field that day with a group of teacher friends and marveled at the beautiful stonework of the surrounding buildings, thinking what it might be like to attend such a visually inspiring school.

Fundamentally, my ties run deep.

University is for second-chances, progression, and foreword thinking. It’s a place where experimentation doesn’t necessarily define, but redefines. It’s where the best learning comes from skipping classes following an all night dorm lobby politics debate. It’s a safe place, where throwing passion to the wind is applauded. College is where struggle and sacrifice cast a shadow over the current wonderland, while envisioning a post-parchment utopia.

It is here where the students at Tech were robbed. Innocence stripped. It is here where I become emotional, attached, and tied.

As an educator, a defender of second-chances, progression, and foreword thinking, I see too often the harsh realities of the world seeping into the institutes of learning, robbing the innocent. I see students afraid. I see students broken. I see students void. I see students spiritless.

A year ago today, a note was handed to me by a parent volunteer that had just returned to my classroom from the administration office. It read:

8 Dead. Virginia Tech. No official news yet.

It took me a moment to compile my racing thoughts. I knew that it was a shooting. I knew that there would be more. And overlooking my 30-plus second-graders, I knew it was going to change everything. Rocked from my typically solid composure, a girl next to me, wearing a Hokie’s sweatshirt asked, “Are you OK?”

And I lied.

The following day, after the students had returned home to hear the news that had unfolded while they learned to two-digit subtract, my class gathered on the carpet to talk. The students were confused, scared, and angry.

Virginia Tech was in their state. It was a college. College was a place where their teacher had become a teacher, and a place that he wanted them to go. They knew that second-grade a stepping stone on that journey. Though gun and death were staples in many of my students’ lives, school had been escape. For the first time, second-grade was no longer a fun, fair and safe place.



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