To the community in Oregon:
This is not how you imagined you would be in the news, for weeks on end in ways that grieve the heart. This is not the way you imagined college to unfold, a place of new beginnings and discovery, a place you never dreamed of as heartbreak and loss at this level.
I am one of many that gets it. I too have been to school and the next morning the whole world’s eyes were upon my seemingly small world, shock and loss and utter confusion surrounding us. I did not personally know any victims at Virginia Tech, but had friends and knew many who hid in fear in the buildings, who waited to see if they were next.
I know what it is like in the days following, with police everywhere and you can’t figure out if you should feel safer or more afraid, regardless if the threat is no longer present. You feel a numbness, like walking in a dream state. And your dreams are nightmares and you are shaken and sad and the sound of firecrackers or random pops makes you think of gunshots.
I know what it is like in that dark night of vigil, standing with candles lit and still thinking, Is it all real? Where do we go from here?
You have been an outsider looking in and now you are an insider looking out and you just want the news crews to go away and let your community begin to put the pieces back together.
But please let them be a reminder that the country grieves with you.
Those beautiful souls that were courageous, those lost and those injured and those who saved, those are worth celebrating, worth bringing light into this dark moment.
Dear families of those lost, we mourn with you. Your children’s lights, so young and bright, burned brightest in those final moments as they stood resolute and faced the dark. True love casts out fear and they were full of pure love, of God, in those moments. Your precious sons and daughters were bravest, most faithful up to their last breath. While it feels there is no comfort in the loss of a child, I pray there is a comfort in knowing this. I have had innocence lost at just six weeks warm in the womb, loss of 18 or more years is that much more hard. I will not pretend to know what that is like but will pray for comfort as one who knows classmates and professors lost. Because in these moments it does not matter what year they were, what major they were, what social club or job they were involved in, in this moment they are all one community. Just as we were all Hokies, all standing as one, they are all Riverhawks. We are all Riverhawks.
So while other colleges and universities get ready for football and tailgating and Fall Break, you put life on hold. You try to find answers to unfathomable questions and run the gamut of emotions. Please, if I can even dare to ask a favor of you , accept help offered, accept hugs and prayers and a squeeze of the hand. Because you will need each other in these days and weeks following, and each anniversary after.
I wish I could say it will all be okay. I may not have known the victims personally, but I know that the road to healing was a long one for the Virginia Tech community and many still grieve, still try to recover from loss. But if the students’ testimonies of faith there in Oregon are any reflection of values in their home, I pray you will know the God of comfort and have some peace when you lay down to sleep in the nights that come.
May God wrap loving arms around you. May peace be found in a warm embrace. Our hearts are with you Oregon. Our prayers go up for you.