We have little to no experience with any of the students at VA Tech at the Curious Mechanism. I don’t know if there really are any bounds to this. In a minuscule, inadequate sort of way, I think, we are all Hokies today.
This is a tragic event. ABC News called it “Massacre at Virginia Tech”, which sounds sensationalistic to me, especially given the accompanying graphics.
There are lot of blogs and Facebook groups and other sites getting the word out about who’s alive, and who’s injured and who has been murdered. The title of this post shares the name with one such blog, which you can find here. There are plenty of sites speculating the cause or causes of yesterday’s mass murder, but there is so little information still, I’m not going to link to any of them. You can find them on your own easily.
I have long felt that healing is more important than justice in the wake of a tragedy. That the merciful relief of pain and anguish is a primary concern, and the prosecution of the people responsible for a crime–even the explanation for their action–is a distant second. Sometimes, justice and mercy are the same thing. To my everlasting disappointment, I can offer neither to anyone in such dire need of both today.
I have, instead, two items that have been a source of comfort to me in the past, and I hope that they can be the same for anyone who needs them.
The first is from a Roman poem, The Aeneid, written in Latin, over 2,000 years ago. The main character, Aeneas, leads his people from the wreckage of Troy after the Trojan War, and they board 20 ships, and sail through the Mediterranean. There are terrible storms and winds, and 13 of the 20 ships are wrecked. Aeneas and his remaining people are lucky to make landfall in Africa. When they’ve landed, and eaten, Aeneas speaks to them, comforting them. The crux of his speech is this line:
Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.
Literally, this means “Perhaps it will help us to remember even this”. The message being, as bad as this is, we will get through it, and, somehow, we’ll be better people having done so. Someday, we’ll be able to look back upon this, and it will remind us as we once were, and as we are now. We will mark yesterday as a significant day, a wretched day, and those closest to it are tempered by fire right now. They are in misery and broken terror right now, and they will get stronger every day. God bless you all, Hokies.
The last thing I offer is, again, the work of a poet, and a much finer writer. It’s a bit longer, but, thankfully, this one is in English. It’s meaning, I think, is self-explanatory.
Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again
Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is not thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.