Eugene Cho

tragedy at virginia tech

update: 4.24 – here’s the guest column i had a chance to write for the seattle post intelligencer. 

update 4.18 – posted a follow up entry to this initial entry – ‘making sense of the senseless…’ 

update 4.17 [8.13am] – my wife woke me up early this morning to reveal that the killer’s identity had been revealed – a 23 year old korean-american virginia tech senior student.  she was shocked when i said, “i already know…is his name seung cho?”

early last night, i was chatting with a va tech alum about her days in blacksburg, viginia.  in my conversation, i asked her, “do you know someone named ‘seung or sung cho’ in virginia?” why?  last night, i couldn’t believe the incredible number of people that were searching the following things to get to my blog: virginia tech shoot cho, cho virginia tech myspace, cho virginia tech, virginia shooter cho, cho seung virginia tech, and on and on.  nearly 100 searches were made with some element of his name and made my way via the blog [because of this post and because of my surname: CHO]. 

i have many things on my mind and heart.  most importantly, i am grieving for those who lives have been taken by this senseless and evil act.  what tragedy.  i am also wrestling with my response – as a pastor, as a believer of jesus, and as a korean-american man.   someone emailed me last night thinking that i was being insensitive by highlighting the killer’s likely ethnic identity.  it was and is not my intent to be insensitive.  in these moments, we need to focus on the victims, the students, the blacksburg community, and all those that are involved – this includes the seung hui cho’s family as well.

but in the weeks ahead, the backlash of the killer’s asian heritage may come more to the forefront.  minhee and i are both deeply saddened.  we are also worried for our children and the aftermath of this tragedy.  for now, we join the nation – in praying and grieving..  we pray for the parents, siblings, and friends of those who have passed.  our prayers are with you.

___________________

original post 4.16 | There really isn’t much to say.  Actually, much to say but not sure what or how to say.  What an incredibly tragic and devastating event today in Blacksburg, Virginia.  Not only was this the worst shooting on a ‘school campus’ but the worst shooting incident in the history of the country.  When I got on the internet this morning, I read that one student was killed in Virginia Tech and as the day progressed, news simply got worse and worse…

Can you imagine receiving the following email announcements in your inbox as a student? 

9:50 AM
A gunman is loose on campus.  Stay in buildings until further notice.  Stay away from all windows

9:26 AM
A shooting incident occurred at West Amber Johnston earlier this morning. Police are on the scene and are investigating.

The university community is urged to be cautious and are asked to contact Virginia Tech Police if you observe anything suspicious or with information on the case. Contact Virginia Tech Police at 231-6411

Stay attuned to the http://www.vt.edu.  We will post as soon as we have more information.

What is most important: we need to be in prayer for all involved – especially the families and loved ones of those who have passed.  This is a national tragedy.  Like many, I am deeply saddened…

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11 Responses

  1. GS says:

    I know that it’s tough but after the wave of emotions, how do we process this?

  2. L T says:

    it appears the shooter is an asian male student that lived in the dorms. as asian american spiritual leaders we need to provide a very thoughtful response. undoubtedly, this will test us all.

  3. e cho says:

    indeed. it’s one of those things i think i’ll need to address from the pulpit on sunday. already, i’ve received several emails from folks asking “how do i process this?”

  4. Blake says:

    It deeply saddens and disturbs me, a member of the “Columbine” generation, that our age group would have to handle yet another massive school shooting in our lifetime from within said age group. Even more, there is a real probability that at least one of the Columbine freshmen is now a VT 5th-year senior: a second shooting in their lifetime. God be with those students.

    Also saddening, and a cause for soul-searching within myself, is that I am not nearly as impacted this time around as I was the first time back in ’99. How is it that I have become so desensitized? Sure, it impacts me (I don’t have a heart of stone), but I don’t have the sense of “vertigo” that I did before. God be with us all as well, and may he show us how to act/react/process/love.

  5. Blake says:

    Okay, I just re-ran the math…. that double-incident I mentioned above isn’t possible. Though I wouldn’t doubt that students who came into Columbine in the years shortly after the shooting experienced this.

  6. James says:

    Pastor Eugene,
    I really do hope you preach about this situation on Sunday.

  7. Diana says:

    Let’s sincerely hope that people don’t attribute the actions of one individual to the entire Asian-American community in the States. Reading his story has also been very painful.

  8. Ken says:

    Please know that most Americans — that is the majority — do not see this event or any similiar event as anything other than what it is: The senseless act of violence from a very troubled individual. One’s race, creed, or color does not enter the equation at all. And it should not. Bigoted individuals will always hate someone because they are different. But I wish the media would grow up and stop repeating where this individual came from each time they report this story. Alas, the media treats all stories as if someone saw the story for the first time today. And the sensationalism factor keeps people watching the news (at least those who are predisposed to not turn the channel to something entertaining or safer for the children to watch). We all need to get along everywhere. And here in this country (USA) we need to be aware that with freedom comes responsibility to see and report those who need help to the authorities. People did that in this case. But a better job can be done. Let us concentrate on the injured and the dead first. Let us grieve. And then let us work out ways to try to avoid these situations in the future. God’s blessings are prayed for on those touched by this tragedy. And on the families of the victims.

  9. jeff says:

    i definitely wish/ hope that most would not see the shooter as representative of all asians, but in america, if the person in question is not a white, heterosexual, protestant, middle class, educated man, then their race, creed and color seems to always be part of the equation. he has been marked as the resident alien from abroad who came into our land and terrorized us, and with our heightened fear of the other, this situation seems to be full of potential for type casting and APIA caricatures. and i think if these kinds of caricatures flourish (as they did with mid-easterners post 9/11), then it’s not unreasonable to fear violent reprisal. and so while i certainly hope that people can view the event as isolated, i know that it’s very difficult for our culture to separate media representations of people groups from ‘reality.’

  10. ian says:

    it’s true that many, if not all, asians are making seung seem more human than the press are presenting him to the world. and as an asian i feel doing the same way but not because he is asian but because he is very young. it is possible that since he is very lonesome he thought his last resort is to end his misery. but not after taking, up to 32 people with him. and that is immature. unfortunately the only ones who may be able to question him regarding that, are the people he killed with him. and it’s sad, he didn’t weight his options, at all(at least for me). he is still young.

  11. thebittersea says:

    I don’t think he’s Korean-American.
    He’s a South Korean national with legal resident status in the United States.
    God Bless.

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She was a devoted wife until she lost her husband to cancer, mother to three daughters, and later became a pastor. She became a follower of Christ as an adult and as such, led her her family to Christ. In her late 50s, she obeyed God's calling to go to seminary and be a leader in the church. She graduated #1 in her class and reminded us that it's never too late to follow a new dream or calling.

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Someday, I hope that when my kids speak of Minhee and I...above all, they would say with integrity that their parents prayed for them and kept pointing them to Christ. On this Mother's Day, I want to take a few words to honor mother.

There’s a moment from a few years ago that will stick with me until the day I die. It’s regarding Sung Wha, my mother.

Minhee and I were at a point of transition, between working at an ethnic Korean church in the northern suburbs of Seattle called Lynnwood and launching Quest in urban Seattle. As I shared earlier, I was in desperate need of a job. I had a mortgage to pay. A pregnant wife. A kid at home. 
Then, praise God, after months without work, I finally landed a job.

My mom was in between jobs at this point in her life. She was in her late fifties, but she had such bad knees and degenerative hips that it was, and is, difficult for her to walk. My mom is like a human barometer—when a storm is coming and when it rains, her hips throb. Although my parents lived in San Francisco, she was visiting us in Seattle to encourage us in this difficult season.

As I prepared to go to work one early morning, I walked downstairs to put on my jacket and shoes, and forgot that my mother woke up early every morning to pray. In fact, she had been praying for months that I would find a job. “Eugene, where are you going?” she said when she saw me.

I hadn’t told my mother the news that I had just recently been hired for the janitorial gig at Barnes and Noble. I chose not to because I thought she and my father would be devastated. I didn’t want them to think that after laboring, sacrificing, and doing so much for us over all those years that their son had failed them.

But I couldn’t lie to her, so eventually I told my mom that I got a job and was going to work. “Great! What job? What are you doing?” “Um, I’m working at Barnes and Noble as their custodian,” I said finally.

Without asking another question, my mother got up from the dining table where she had been reading her Bible and praying. She slowly walked slowly toward me.

She approached me, then walked past me without saying a word, and I realized she was headed toward the closet. She opened the closet door, put on her jacket, turned around and said to me (in Korean), “Eugene, let’s go together. I will help you.” This is my mother.

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