Photo Courtesy of Ben Townsend
Similarities and Differences, sounds like the name of a show. Unfortunately its reality tv where one frustrated human becomes so twisted inside their brain I question just how human they really are.
I remember April 2007 like I do 9-11. However during 9-11, I didn't know people in those towers, or near by on the ground so it was an emotion filled spectacle minus that extra attachment. On April 16th, when Seung-Hui Cho began his graphic killing spree through the beautiful campus of Virginia Tech I was getting ready for class in Denver. Not only did I attend this University for undergrad but I also grew up there. That small delicate town where front doors stayed unlocked and we rode bicycles in the calm streets was what I knew as home until I turned 22 and left for the mountains of Colorado. While I was at Tech, we made headlines with a guy named Michael Vick who ran touchdowns like lightening sending us to the top of our game, making us football champions the country admired. Then a few short years later even Michael Vick´s slaughtered name couldn't compete with a guy named Cho.
So yes, I remember precisely sitting on my black futon frantically making calls home as I stayed in from studio that Monday. My dad taught in the building next door to where Cho made a name for himself. My mom usually taught in that exact building, Norris Hall most semesters but this particular one she was instead on the other side of campus holding a guest lecture. Her class started at 9am, hours after Cho's first victims and fifteen minutes prior to his next quest. Neither parent could be reached. I was finally able to get a hold of my dad, there was a lot of static and commotion and he was holed up in the basement of the building with lots of other people locked inside and waiting. He had heard the shots in Norris, lots of them but no one at the time really knew much. Who would have thought they were bullet rounds, that someone would actually be killing people inside of a university classroom? My mom finished class and headed for her quick walk home without a clue as to what had gone down hundreds of feet away.
When I go back to visit I often meet my dad for lunch at his office which is still right next door to where it all went down. I walk by and witness the silent strolls of students. Every other quad is full of laughter and ringing cellphones, couples giggling on their way to physics but when they pass Norris it becomes a whisper. I feel as though several ghostly eyes are watching from the windows still hoping to escape, stuck inside wondering why this happened in such an idyllic place where they dreamed of starting their young lives, not ending them.
I am still angry. People used to ask me, "Where is Blacksburg? I've never heard of it?" I miss that. Google Virginia Tech? Google begins to fill in with 'Virginia Tech shooting' as the first option! So when poor Rio just endured a Virginia Tech copycat, a similar soulless shadow of terror, it broke my heart and brought me back. I saw this article pop up on my news feed and thought, "its following me here?!" I don't exactly know what to say. I watched the video of the children fleeing attached to that article and it was like some sick joke from a slasher film. Children panicked, running for their lives and slipping on the stone surface of the hallways, some already injured.
All I know is that I can sympathize with those poor parents to some degree, scared and helpless without the ability to protect their loved ones. The shock might be calming as the vigils and memorials begin, but the toll on the families will be a lifetime of pain. Everyone is affected. My dad handed out a post mortem degree to a one of the victim's families and he couldn't help but think his daughter was in that same building taking classes 2 years prior. He handed me the same degree at my graduation in 2005 that he gave her family, from the same major.
Parents can no longer joyfully wave goodbye in the morning without the haunting thought their children could be in danger. Not because they walk, drive or bike to school, but because they sit in school and learn and that privilege has been threatened and poisoned.
The similarities are atrocious and the geographic differences shocking. Brazil is a peaceful country, their motoboy's may ride like features in the Fast and Furious but at the end of the day they make love not war. So its even more nefarious in this soil, spreading like a disease throughout the globe. Rio, I feel your affliction, your confusion and trauma.
Nikki Giovanni said, "We Will Prevail." And we will.