Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Unthinkable

Losing Leslie by Liza Mundy
Washington Post Magazine
November 11, 2007

The poignant cover story of today's Post Magazine gave me pause. It was about the different approaches that parents and other family members of those who died in the Virginia Tech shooting take to coping with their loss, and how they all in their own ways are trying to move forward. There is a tension between wanting to honor the memory of their child or loved one and celebrate his/her life, but not wanting anger and hatred to become the focus of their lives. Some people are trying to use their pain to work for a positive change, such as stricter gun laws or increased security on college campuses.

Liza Mundy's article brings out the searching that all victims' family members must be doing to some degree, but she paints the picture by getting to know one family closely and learning about the different opinions within its members. Some of the Virginia Tech parents have directed a lot of anger toward the university and/or the Blacksburg police force. There are questions about why Seung Hui Cho was not spotted as a potentially dangerous person, and why the campus was not locked down after the first two early morning shootings. A review panel that was formed to evaluate that horrific morning and determine what could have been done better admitted that locking the campus down might have made the death toll smaller. However, they also said that those responsible acted in good faith and made the best decisions at the time with the information that they had.

Understandably, some family members are not satisfied with the review panel's report. Some are even considering a lawsuit, wanting to see that someone is held accountable for their loved one's premature death. Others are turned off by the idea of receiving any monetary compensation, believing (rightly, I think) that no amount of money could ever ease the pain of losing a child. Mundy's article focuses on the Adams-Sherman family from Springfield, VA. Holly Adams and Tony Sherman lost their daughter Leslie, and they disagree on how to live in a world without her. Ms. Adams is considering participating in some kind of lawsuit, but she is clear that she is not motivated by money. She believes she owes it to her daughter to do everything she can to find out the truth of what happened that day. By contrast, her husband thinks that such a process would only delay healing and keep their family from moving forward in healthy ways.

Liza Mundy portrayed the Adams-Sherman family with a great deal of sensitivity and a lack of judgement. After reading her article, I feel like I know these bereaved parents, like they live down the street from me. I want to take them a casserole and hug them and sit with them and pray with and for them until there is the tiniest pinhole of light in their darkness.

The article was not clear as to whether this the Adams-Sherman family members are people of faith. Out of 32 victims, though, I am guessing that there were Christian families, Jewish families, Muslim families, possibly people of other faiths and almost certainly some non-believers - all of whom experienced the tragedy of that awful day. Each must find ways to cope. I have no doubt of God's love for me and for my children, but no one knows how they would face such a loss until they go through it. I hope that so many people who are still grappling with this senseless tragedy find strength and comfort from some kind of belief in a God of love and mercy.

This week, we will pass the seven month anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting. We are approaching the first cycle of holidays for so many people who are missing sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, friends, and significant others. So many people will have a hard time feeling thankful, or celebrating the festival of lights, or believing in an unlikely savior. My heart goes out to them tonight and in the days ahead. May God grant them some small measure of peace.

Reverent Reader


At 11/12/07, 5:08 PM , Anonymous Kevin P said...

thanks for the post; after we read it spouse and I disagreed (imagine that) about whether we'd press the lawsuit or not. No one knows for sure, but in general I think we'd tend to try and live and let live, as they say. So much more to live for, especially when another child needs your attention, than such legalistic abstrations as "accountability." When pushed too far, that concept becomes a mask for simple blame, which is usually not as constuctive as we hoped. There must be better, more productive, less hostile, ways to "settle" issues concerning emergency response , who's responsible for what, outside of the court system. Why not make it a substantive area for reasearch in say, a University? Better results emerge from thoughtful, cooperative study and research. Bad rules often are the result of asking lawyers and judges (however well-intentioned) to do that difficult research for us.

At 11/12/07, 8:16 PM , Blogger Reverent Reader said...

Hey Kevin -
I have been asking myself the same questions that you and T. were wrestling with ever since I read the article. I like to hope that a lawsuit would not be my first thought, but I think I can understand how someone dealing with such unimaginable pain would make an angry response, especially if they did not feel heard by the organization where something so awful happened. I continue to keep all of these grieving people in my prayers. Thanks for your thoughtful post. LAK


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