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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One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Everyone loves the idea of  reconciliation...until it involves truthtelling, confessing, repenting, dismantling, forgiving, and peacemaking. Charlottesville. So heartbreaking and infuriating. We weep and mourn over the hatred in the hearts of these white nationalists. We weep and mourn but we can't be defeated.

As I stare at this photo that's making its round on the internet, I'm reminded of the utter importance of showing up. I'm grateful for the news media, law enforcement, clergy, and peaceful protesters that are currently there to report, protect, pray, and protest.

And this is an invitation to us. May we not be mere bystanders. May we keep pressing forward. Seek justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly. Commit to truth-telling, justice, reconciliation, peacemaking. Follow the ways of Christ. Every day. And it's important to note that we don't have to go to Charlottesville to do this. In fact, it's more important that we do this exactly where we're at. May we live out the call to reconciliation in our churches, workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, and around our dining tables. Lord, may it be so... We don't have to go to Charlottesville to do this. We have to do this wherever were called to be.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. /// Thanks to those who let me know that the photo wasn't actually from today but rather from last month in Charlottesville. - https://www.facebook.com/FrankSomervilleKTVU/posts/1551137301616258:0 Grateful for a spontaneous, last minute trip with Minhee to my old stomping grounds - San Francisco. 48 hours of visiting this special city that I called home for so many years.

Pic 1: Went to the Cliff House restaurant where we got engaged about 21 years ago to make out. Oops, sorry, I meant...to reflect on God's faithfulness over these many years.

Pic 2: Walked across the Golden Gate Bridge because it's such an iconic place - with some of the most incredible views.

Pic 3: Enjoyed a glass of some Cabernet Sauvignon and pretended to be wine connoisseurs at a vineyard.

Pic 4: Had lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant, Sam Tung, which boasts some of the best chicken in the country. And of course, we ate at In-n-out.

Pic 5: And finally, celebrated with the good folks at @thefreedomstory where @onedayswages received their annual Freedom Award. What an honor.

Grateful. Thankful for this sabbatical. Breathe.

Show yourself some grace.

We can't do everything for everyone in every situation. Do what you can and do it with a joyful heart.

Amen A family that eats sushi together stays together.

Seriously, I don't ever remember eating so much as a teenager but these kids eat and eat and eat. Perhaps, the reason why this kid is pushing 6 feet tall. Grateful for a special treat with the family at @JaponessaSeattle. I'm sharing an obligatory, "I love and appreciate my wife, she's amazing" photo. Also...because I did something naughty...or brilliant. ;) Seattle is in the midst of a crazy heatwave. Near 100 degrees, hazy, and humid. An excessive heat advisory warning has also been issued.

So, Minhee and I needed to run some errands. It waa horrible but sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do. It's also known as adulting.

So, I'm driving and the air conditioning seems to have minimal effect. Minhee is in the passenger's seat and umm, when she's not paying attention, I turn on her seat heater to 5 - the highest level. All along, she's complaining about how hot she is...for nearly an hour...until she finally realizes what I did.

Bam. Boom. Gotcha.

Minhee, I love you!

my tweets

  • RT @mrmedina: When Bryan Stevenson speaks, we do well to listen. https://t.co/o5GJD0KWR2 || 12 hours ago
  • "Mourn with those who mourn." Lifting up the people of Sierra Leone in prayers. Hundreds dead and many more missing… twitter.com/i/web/status/8… || 14 hours ago
  • Dear Barcelona: We are so sorry. We mourn the violence and tragedy in your beautiful city. We pray for healing and yearn for peace. Amen. || 1 day ago
  • Love wins in the end but meanwhile, it fights for things that matter. Love isn't sentimental. It's both gentle & fierce. Seek God's Kingdom. || 2 days ago
  • In response to racism, folks often say, "It's a sin issue." Yes...but don't be naive. Sin creates sinful systems: youtube.com/watch?v=LEbUa0… || 3 days ago
  • Everyone loves the idea of reconciliation...until it involves truthtelling, confessing, repenting, dismantling, forgiving, and peacemaking. || 5 days ago