Tragedy at Virginia Tech


Tragedy at Virginia Tech


Posted by Helena Cobban at April 16, 2007 04:33 PM

Tragedy has <a href="">struck</a> the community at Virginia Tech, our state&#39;s "other" fine flagship university, which is located around 120 miles southwest of my hometown, Charlottesville.

Apparently a single gunman went on a rampage there earlier today and killed at least 30 members of the university community-- most likely, most of them students.

Obviously, this is a truly horrible blow for all members of the community there.

Equally obviously, we know that communities throughout Iraq have been suffering blows as huge as this one-- or on occasions, even larger blows-- on a daily or almost daily basis throughout the past 3-4 years. Many communities in sub-Saharan Africa suffer from gun violence on this scale, too. And last week, Algeria, in North Africa, was the scene of two extremely lethal suicide bombings...

Can we all unite in grief together, and in sad wonder at the senselessness of ultra-lethal weapons and the tragedy of their widespread availability and use in many different parts of the world?

Can we unite in sad wonder at the depth of alienation and hopelessness that leads some people to engage in mass killings, even sometimes to the point of throwing their own lives into the project, as well?

Can we unite with a commitment to support, help, and try to repair all those bereaved by these and other acts of violence?

Can we unite around a strengthened commitment never ourselves to resort to violence, and to redouble our search for the nonviolent ways that <u>always do exist</u> to resolve any differences among us as humans?

I have only been to Virginia Tech once. It was a magical half-day I spent there, in the summer of 2005. The Friends General Conference (FGC), which is the main body of &#39;liberal&#39; north American Quakers, was holding its annual summer gathering in a small part of Tech&#39;s beautiful campus, which is built from flinty blue-grey stone in the incredibly beautiful foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I wasn&#39;t a participant in the gathering, but I made a special trip there one evening to spend a few hours with my dear friend Misty Gerner, who was then in a fairly advanced stage of her cancer. Misty, her husband, and I walked around the beautiful lawns a bit, and had dinner at a small nearby restaurant. Then Phil (the husband) left Misty and me alone a while. We walked and talked a whole lot more. She was wracked with bouts of pretty intense physical pain but her spirit was radiant.

I prefer to remember Tech&#39;s campus as the place where I talked with Misty on that sunny evening about life, death, love, God, justice, peace, and the Middle East... She died last summer. Maybe a little part of her still hovers over the Tech campus. If so I hope she can help to comfort the many shocked and bereaved people there today.

God forgive us all for having let the spirit of violence permeate our communities and animate our actions to this extent.


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Helena Cobban




Brent Jesiek


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Helena Cobban, “Tragedy at Virginia Tech,” The April 16 Archive, accessed September 23, 2017,