Wednesday, April 16, 2008

April 16, 2008: In Memoriam for Virginia Tech

Today, April 16, is a day of remembrance at Virginia Tech. You can go here for a moving tribute to those who fell one year ago and those who remain and must carry the memories for the rest of their lives.

There are some who have asked haven't we had enough memorials? Isn't it time to let the families alone with their personal grief? They have even asked, with a certain bitterness, do we remember the victim of the hit and run driver, the soldier who has fallen in Iraq or Afghanistan, or those who have been victims of medical malpractice or so many other tragedies?

Some of those have been the private tragedies that the public is not aware of. But individual families and friends do in fact have rituals of remembrance that occur with some regularity. Catholics hold masses for their departed and pray for their dead long after the funeral has ended. Jewish people say Kaddish, a prayer for the dead, for an entire year after and then on certain occasions throughout the year to mark the passing of their beloved. They also light small candles, Yartzeit lights, that burn for 24 hours to mark the anniversary of a death. Relatives do this for the rest of their own lives.

Why hold a memorial a year later? Because we don't forget our dead. It's a public rather than private memorial because it was such a public event that forced itself onto our consciousness and shocked us so profoundly.

Along with the Hokie family, we all looked raw evil in the face that day and for many days afterwards. And there is something in human nature that makes it impossible for us to allow evil to triumph. So we hold memorials in order to say publicly that evil cannot, cannot trump goodness and love.

So with every other Virginian, I will join the moment of silence at noon. I will also say a personal prayer for those who died that tragic day one year ago. And I will honor their memories and affirm that evil will never trump human decency as long as there is memory and will.

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