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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One Day’s Wages

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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