Eugene Cho

remembering virginia tech – one year later

” We will never forget…”

April 16 is the Day of Remembrance – marking one year – of the tragedy of the Virginia Tech massacre – the worst school shooting in U.S. history. 

On this day, the Virginia Tech community reflects on the vibrant lives of the 32 students and faculty who were tragically taken from us a year ago. Through light, art, and music we pay tribute to each and every person we lost. We gather to honor our friends, colleagues, and family members. We will never forget. [visit the VT remembrance website

Even in the midst of the chaos, confusion, and complexities of the various issues of violence, gun control, prejudice, mental illness, and others…we must foremost remember the lives and stories of those who lost their lives in this tragedy – all 33.I can’t even imagine what this past year must have been like for the family of the victims. I can’t imagine what this past year must have been like for Seung Hui Cho’s parents and sister. 

Personally, the Virginia Tech tragedy continues to impact my thoughts.  While there have been countless national and global events over the past couple decades, four events have had a very prominent impact on my life:  the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster,  the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sampoong Department Store [Seoul, Korea] collapse [one of my church youth group kids died in this tragedy], and of course, the Virginia Tech shootings.  

The Virginia Tech tragedy exposed a great deal.  It exposed what we all already know: We live in a broken and fallen word.  It was never meant to be like this. I say this not for it to be an easy answer, explanation or excuse but to illuminate our collective need for the mercy, compassion, and grace of Christ.

The event also exposed my self-centeredness.  The following thought progression was a snapshot of my warped thoughts:

  • “Wow, how could this have happened? What a tragedy. i must pray for these folks.”
  • “What? They think an Asian man did it? That’s impossible. Asians don’t do stuff like that. But just in case, I hope it’s not a Korean person.”
  • “S#@t. It is a Korean person. Why do the news keep insisting he’s a foreigner?!? Is there going to be backlash?  Do I send my kids to school?”

Rather than thinking and praying for the victims and their families, I was too engrossed in my own thoughts and agenda.  Today, I took some time to re-read the stories of the 32 victims which the families have approved and released. [official biographies and photos of the 32 victims]

Other worthwhile reads that make you think [updated]: Don Imus and Virginia Tech – a year later [Melvin Bray]; Virginia Tech Mourns/Heals [cnn]

Here’s the guest column [Seattle Post Intelligencer] I wrote  last year [published on Tuesday, April 24, 2007].  My hope for the column was not to justify Seung Hui Cho’s actions but to somehow be a source of healing and deeper understanding of the immigrant experience and the reactions of the Korean/Asian community.  Much of this editorial comes from some initial thoughts shared in a blog entry entitled, ‘Making Sense of the Senseless.’

..Personally, the emotions have been even more convoluted because of my bicultural identity. I was born in Korea, immigrated to the United States at the age of 6 and thus am Korean American. I am also a U.S. citizen; I am a Korean American male immigrant and even share the same surname as the gunman, Seung-Hui Cho.

Once I discovered that the gunman was Korean American, I had some initial fears of racial backlash. As a proud citizen of this country, I do not believe there will be any overt backlash. It would be nonsensical for people to associate the heinous crime to Koreans or Korean Americans simply because of Seung-Hui Cho’s ethnicity.

In that same vein, it would have been preposterous and unjust for us to place blame on African Americans for the actions of John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo in the Beltway Sniper attacks of 2002 or to ask white Americans to share blame with Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombings of 1995.

But in the days after the identity of the gunman was revealed, many in the media and larger culture may have been perplexed by the responses of Koreans and Korean Americans. Many Koreans expressed embarrassment, shame and even guilt. State Sen. Paul Shinn fought back his tears as he apologized to fellow lawmakers. Even despite being reassured by others that an apology was not necessary, he continued…. I share in deep pain, embarrassment and shame. I share in the deep pain because when I see images of this young man, I don’t just see a “crazy Asian killer,” I also see someone whose life story sounds very similar to mine. Such words as lonely, isolated and quiet were often used to describe my younger life as I struggled to fit in as an immigrant. [read full article]

 

Filed under: religion, ,

7 Responses

  1. RK says:

    It’s hard to believe that one year has already passed. Like you, the VT massacre will be one of the events I will always remember where and what I was exactly doing.

  2. Marianne says:

    it shows what a life without Jesus is like…empty and lost…no hope….I sometimes wonder how christianity failed in some way…because no one reached the boy in time…..if christianity would go back to biblical roots, we would see more people delivered and saved..and less of this horror…….right now, there is too much emphasis on money, personal empowerment, and success, rules, and tithing……there is not enough equipping of the saints to work in the community to help others. I hope all this improves…and less of this kind of tragedy occurs…….my prayers go to the kids at the school….and their families….

    marianne
    http://heavenawaits.wordpress.com/

  3. Derek says:

    It’s too simple to say that Christianity failed in some way. We all know it’s not perfect but we also discovered how numerous people, churchs, christians, school friends, and family members reached out to Cho.

  4. I can’t believe it’s been a year since that tragedy. Just thinking about brings back so many difficult thoughts, those thoughts of guilt, shame, and anger. But thanks for expressing so well, what I could not articulate back then.

  5. J. R. Miller says:

    I don’t think I ever looked at Cho Seung-Hui as a Korean, but simply as a man who was, as you say, fallen and in need of a savior. He did not reflect poorly on Koreans. He was instead a reflection on humanity. What struck me most was that anyone of us could be the next shooter, because life without God is suicide.

  6. Esemare says:

    Thank you for taking the time to remember. You are right in saying that the Virginia Tech shootings taught us much about the world we live in. While it taught us the obvious, one of the greatest lessions it taught was the importance of community and the ability to cross cultural barriers and become one. The way VT banded together and the leadership the institution’s administrators showed is the best example of community that I have seen in my lifetime.

  7. RK says:

    Wow, is there another RK? The one above is not me. Hmm.

    JR, I’m with you. It was a “relection on humanity”. Yes, without God’s love, truth and mercy, “anyone of us could be the next shooter”.

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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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