I just got back home after driving from West Lafayette. I heard on the radio about YET ANOTHER HORRENDOUS SHOOTING on a university campus.
My breath caught in my throat as I heard the NPR news staff interview the faculty advisor for the student newspaper at Northern Illinois University. I couldn’t stop myself from actually crying in the car as visions of Virginia Tech ran in front of my eyes. I interviewed at Virginia Tech the week before the massacre there, was so terribly shocked by how close my visit had been, felt so terribly awful for the colleagues I met there during my visit.
A student in the class that I co-taught in the fall died in a car accident, in November I think. He was not in my section, I may have never set eyes on him, but I felt such grief for his family that I can hardly describe it. Teaching, for me, has opened me up to feeling intense empathy for complete strangers, has fueled a new will in me to treat my students with respect and humanity because their parents have entrusted them to my care, and simultaneously such a frustration when I find I lack the skills and resources to do so to the extend they deserve. I feel this personally.
And now here we have another university shooting. Another indescribably troubled person decides to rob young people of their lives. I feel grief for the families who lost a member so randomly, fear for my students and myself as I also teach large classes on university campuses, anger that the shooter did not choose to kill himself first and instead decided to take innocents with him, and guilt that such violence occurs all over the world and yet I do not grieve in the same way for those families. I know the horrors experienced by families in places like Iraq and Darfur would be so extreme as to shut my mind down completely. And yet, do they not also deserve to be grieved?
I dread hearing about the rest of this story as we find out more overnight. And I almost wish I were religious in such a way that believed those affected could be comforted by my prayers.