Echoes of Community

April 17, 2007

The hundreds of photos from the past month that I have been organizing for this blog are on hold. Right now, I feel numb. I have been overloaded by the unspeakable acts of violence yesterday in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Today, I watched the solemn convocation held on campus in Cassell Coliseum. I was struck by the familiar ceremonial rituals that took place there. In the cavernous basketball arena, where the large crowd of students, faculty, staff, families and friends gathered, it began with the playing of the national anthem. It ended with an uplifting cheer from the crowd, "Let's go, Hokies!" In between, many of the speakers, including the President of the United States and the Governor of Virginia spoke poignantly of community and the coming together of the campus in its hour of need. It felt right and good.

It seems that all talk of division -- class, race, and gender -- that has filled the airwaves over the past several weeks has suddenly disappeared. Somehow, these discussions seem not relevant to the present. What matters now is community, togetherness, being part of a greater whole - family, friends, campus, village, commonwealth, nation, planet. Why does it take a tragedy of this proportion to allow us to reach this sense of unity? Perhaps, the answer lies in our fears. Such monstrous acts make trivial our day-to-day fears. When such heinous acts occur, these fears are replaced in our hearts and minds with the realization that, as humans, we all share a fragile existence. And this sharing which renders us one and the same, at once gives us hope.

And so we move forward, recovering from the pain and shock. Typically, as this healing gradually takes place, so too our daily fears slowly come back. Eventually, our sense of oneness fades and our divisions emerge. As we collectively mourn the loss of human life and begin a process of returning to normalcy, I pray that we try to remember and preserve the reality of oneness in our everyday lives.

Requiescant in pace.

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