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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"He Makes All Things New." In other words, Christ is our eternal hope. I'm sitting in my swinging bench on the comforts of my front porch after an exhilarating and exhausting day at church. It never gets tiring, stale, or old to preach and proclaim the good news of the Gospel - not just on Resurrection Sunday but every week as we gather as the body of Christ.

But it was this picture of Coptic Christians in Egypt pouring into churches on Easter Sunday that deeply moved my heart...just a week after two churches were bombed by ISIS terrorists taking 45 lives and injuring hundreds.

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In other words, we have to keep Christ at the center because it's inevitable, there's a lot of messing up. So much messing up. It's both beautiful and painful and without grace, it's impossible.

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