Reflecting on VT: What About Us?


Published: April 17, 2008

April 21, 1999. I sat in the boys’ row at my elementary school, hanging out with some of my classmates. At that age, I was slowly building confidence to talk after two years of pure unadulterated bullying hell. In 4th and 5th grade, I was labeled the ‘new kid’ and was treated as thus: picked last for every kickball game, teased behind the teacher’s back and talked to only when someone needed an answer to a question. Though things were changing for me, I still remembered every hurtful word.

As the conversation in the boys’ row geared towards certain events, someone in line mentioned Columbine and how two high school seniors ended their misery by ending 13 innocent lives. I remember hearing the news, and saying to myself, “Wow, that was cool” and smiling. Thoughts of vengeance came to mind. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold got their “healing.” For that one brief moment, I wanted that “healing” too.

My life has changed drastically since that moment. After the 6th grade, my family started to play a more proactive role. Instead of blindly wiping away my tears, my family began to teach me ways to prevent future tears. Finding a strong group of friends my freshman year of high school gave me people I could confide in without the fear of being rejected or ostracized. I also developed my faith in my God, who carried me through my “healing.”

Nine years later, the issues brought up from Columbine are brought up yet again on the one year anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre. The first questions addressed are usually about the murderers’ interactions with their classmates and issues of mental health. Experts look to the warning signs and how the murderers’ families and schools ignored them. Lastly, the quick-fix band-aid strategies are brought out: stricter gun control, tougher school security, ban violent entertainment. Why do tragedies like this temporarily bring up the same tough questions that never seem to get answered?

Violence has been imprinted in the human framework since Cain killed Abel. Violence is all around us, whether we recognize it or not. Regardless of violent video games or movies, we usually see the result of violent actions every day on the news. Twenty-four-hour news networks like CNN and Fox News splice in war coverage and violent attacks in-between election coverage. Aggressive behavior is displayed on the streets and in the subways of New York City every day.

In addition, if a person wants to commit a violent attack, the person will commit the action, regardless of the weapons involved. History has proven that people will go to great lengths despite the technology involved. If it’s not a gun, it’s a homemade bomb. If it’s not a bomb, it’s knives. If it’s not a knife, it’s poisoning a drink. If it’s not poison, it’s kicks and punches until death. No amount of restrictions a government can enforce can negate the fact that people will, at times, resolve conflicts non-peacefully.

So where does that leave us? What could we possibly do? Tragedies like Columbine and Virginia Tech may seem too grand for one person to tackle and prevent. However, the answer may not be as crazy as you think. The answer starts with us.

Luke 6:31 states the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Most of us have heard the Golden Rule used ever since infancy. The Rule has been used to discipline, instruct and even guilt people for centuries. It is a one-sentence statement that may seem overused but, in it, proves simple but substantial answers.

Every question trying to explain why tragedies like this happen can be answered by saying, “What have you done?” The messy questions of mental health, gun control and school security wouldn’t need to be asked if more people were following the Golden Rule. Yes, there are people that you aren’t going to like. That’s human nature. However, giving that person respect because he or she is a human person speaks volumes. Being able to help out someone, small or big, will have an impact. Even sending a small friendly smile to someone while walking down the halls can brighten someone’s day.

I’m not asking every single person to go to your local place of worship and become a convert. However, what I am asking is for some self-reflection. As the creator of “Dilbert,” Scott Adams, said, “Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” Treating others as you would like to be treated will make a difference.

The transformation I made from 6th grade to my junior year at Fordham has been strong. The quiet, hurt and angry 11 year old has turned into a somewhat loud, happy and positive 20 year old. Throughout those nine years, I have seen amazing small and big acts of kindness that have impacted me for the better.

I can’t say that Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold and Seung-Hui Cho would have changed their minds if someone genuinely smiled at them before they fired gunshots. I can say that showing them (and others) the respect that every human being deserves could have lessened their hate and give them the healing they desperately needed.

What can we do? Do good.