VIRGINIA TECH MASSACRE

Technology Becomes a Coping Mechanism
by: Jerry Liao

“It can’t be happening again”, this was my intial reaction while watching an international TV news program on cable reporting about the shooting incident in Virgina Tech. The incident reminded me of the Columbine High School shooting incident. At the time of the report, the report was 22 students were killed and another 22 were injured. Of course, we all know that there were 33 people killed by Cho Seung-Hui — a 23-year-old senior majoring in English, who arrived in the United States as a boy from South Korea in 1992 and was raised in suburban Washington, D.C.

The shootings took place on Monday April 16, 2007 on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), A total of 61 people were shot by the gunman, who then shot and killed himself. 32 people, not including the shooter, were killed in two separate attacks approximately two hours apart, in two separate buildings on the Virginia Tech campus.

The first shooting occurred around 7:15 a.m. in West Ambler Johnston Hall, a co-ed dormitory that houses 895 students. Approximately two hours after the initial shootings, shots were reported in a classroom at Norris Hall, an engineering and science building that houses the Engineering Science and Mechanics program.

Virginia Tech cancelled classes for the rest of the week and closed Norris Hall for the remainder of the semester. The school is offering counseling assistance for students and faculty and held an assembly on Tuesday, April 17, 2007. Additionally, the Red Cross has dispatched several dozen crisis counselors to Blacksburg to help Virginia Tech students cope with the tragedy.

There was a widespread international response, including condolences and sympathy from many countries including officials in Australia, Canada, People’s Republic of China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines and the UK, as well as Pope Benedict XVI, U.S. President George Bush, Virginia senators, French President Jacques Chirac, Queen Elizabeth II and more.

During those terrifying moments at Virginia Tech, many students communicated with one another through text messages and video from their cell phones. After becoming aware of the incident, most of the students opt to stay home after what had happened. And the students resorted to social networking websites like Facebook and MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, message boards, blogs and online groups to share their grief and create memorial pages of their fellow collegues. More than 500 Facebook groups honoring those lost on the incident have been created nationwide.

A website called VTTragedy.com was also created and was swarmed with visitors all over the world, so many that the site crashed. Legacy.com, an online obituary service, set up a guest book for people to write notes about the tragedy. TechSideline.com, a site for VT sports fans, also quickly morphed into a meeting place where students, family and friends could
communicate.

I consulted a doctor friend of mine and asked him how effective is technology in helping ease the grief in a way. This is what he said – “Communication is very important in this time of grief. One should be able to express his/her grief and anxiety in any form at hand. And if social networking websites and other hi-tech communication will be available for them to express what they feel, then let it be. But of course, this is a temporary solution, I heard that authorities already offered crisis counselors to help families and students to cope up with the tragedy”.

Some other advantages that I can see is of course the Internet is available 24/7, so any time one wishes to write something about the tragedy, or wishes to talk to someone, the Internet will be available. Another advantage is some are not good in talking and prefers writing. Being able to share or express one’s feelings and sentiments about the incident is very important at this stage. Some may even offer a different perspective about the incident which may help ease the pain for some and may also help others understand what happen and why it had to happen.

A social network is a map of the relationships between individuals, indicating the ways in which they are connected through various social familiarities ranging from casual acquaintance to close familial bonds. A social networking site is an online place where a user can create a profile and build a personal network that connects him or her to other users.

For girls, social networking sites are primarily places to reinforce pre-existing friendships; for boys, the networks also provide opportunities for flirting and making new friends. But in the case of the Virginia Tech tragedy, social networking websites
becomes a source for outpouring of support and love. People from all walks of life comforting each other.

There will be questions we can answer. There will be some we cannot. We try to search for the right words to express all the grief and sadness, the frustration and fury, but nothing comes. Tragedy, it seems, always manages to wrench us from our innocence and, as if to remind us all of our mortality and our vulnerability, it reveals to us the language of death. We cannot help but share the crushing sense of weakness.

The fact remains that there are things we cannot know. Whatever is happening is simply happening. And, from a spiritual perspective, anything negative that happens has only one purpose: to foster compassion in the human heart. Anything can fuel the fires of compassion if our hearts are open wide enough. As it is written in the Bible, “What man has intended for evil, God
intends for good.” Even the most horrific situations can increase with in us our capacity to love.”

Remember always my friends: When we view things from God’s perspective, it changes our values. Death is no longer a tragedy, but rather a homecoming. Suffering is no longer pain, but rather an opportunity to learn to trust in God. Illness is no longer dreaded, but rather an opportunity to see God’s comfort and care. Persecution no longer makes us feel weak and helpless, but rather it makes us strong in our faith. Walking through the valley of darkness is no longer frightening, but rather it helps us to learn to walk by the light.

*****

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