” 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]
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]