Saturday, February 23, 2008

DeKalb Update

Students are returning to the N.I.U. campus where classes will resume on Monday. Since the shootings occurred on February 14, 2008, I have been following the reports in the local newspaper, The Daily Chronicle. [In one of my past lives, I delivered bundles of their papers to drop-off sites]. They have created a special section of their website entitled "Campus Loss" to collect stories and photos.

Of all the information collected, there has been little that to shed light on why the tragedy occurred. ("Shooter's Motive Still Undetermined"). Meanwhile, two of the victims are still hospitalized and are only listed in "fair" condition.

There have been numerous gatherings, formal and informal, in the community for prayer, silence, and solidarity. Students and staff at Virginia Tech have gathered as well and offered whatever help they can to those at N.I.U.

A couple things caught my eye in reading about how the community has responded over the past ten days. First is how people tend to invent or elaborate tangible ways to grieve and reflect, including candlelight vigils, gatherings, and wearing ribbons. A cynic might wonder at such an outpouring over such a brief burst of violence compared to that which occurs daily in other places around the world. Yet to fail to react with horror and want to stop and mourn and wonder at being left alive would somehow be less than fully human. It seems to take standing, kneeling, whispers, hugs, and flowers and ribbons to carry everyone forward together.

But how awkward is it if one has no religious practices, let alone beliefs, to act it out. I had to smile at the sudden flurry to manufacture ribbons to wear -- red ribbon, the school color, with white Huskies paw prints imprinted, placed on top of a black ribbon. Yet I did so with some understanding of the time when I struggled so with the more Catholic gestures when I began attending an Episcopal church. I knew I did not have to adopt them but I wondered a lot about how and why they were used until I happened to see a t.v. news report of Jackie Kennedy's funeral, with her children, the cousins, and the whole family filing by her casket, each crossing themselves and ending by touching their hand on it. Then it all made perfect sense to me, movement and touching.

Of course in the early days following the tragedy at N.I.U., it was the few religious who remained in town who knew exactly what to do. Kate, a Daily Chronicle photographer, gave a moving account of a church gathering the first night in this blog entry, where she wrote:
I took some photographs with the reserve and respect I would have liked to have if I were one of the worshippers at the church, but it seemed many of the other photographers did not have that personal restriction. As I approached a group of students to learn their names after taking their photos, the last man asked me if I would be interested in praying with them. Without hesitation, I put down my notepad, pen and camera and kneeled beside my fellow DeKalb residents. I felt at that moment, that was exactly where I should have been and I cried. I cried for the victims, I cried for the families and I cried for the students who displayed such conviction to pray and be in the company of fellow mourners that they didn’t mind having a 300mm lens shoved directly in their faces. The students at Wellspring Chapel truly showed courage and pure intent Thursday night and I will forever remember them for their composure and their understanding.
As Mad Priest would say, what a brick that Kate is.

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