Mostly I've been able to block out thinking too much about Blacksburg and Cho the past few days just by plunging into work, dealing with the kids, joking around as usual and so on, while still at least symbolically wearing my Hokies stuff (I have a number of T-shirts, a sweatshirt, and a couple ballcaps).
However, it's hard to relate how much Blacksburg means to me personally. It was my childhood home, and I had about as ideal a childhood as it gets. It was (and I suppose still is) the place I always wanted to return to someday. It was, for me, as close to heaven on earth as I could imagine, as crazy as that may sound to some people. Thus it is all the more maddening when unwanted associations creep in when I think about it.
Just now, I was reading a bedtime story to the kids. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, an old favorite. Which I read over and over again as a kid...in Newman Library on the Tech campus while my parents hit the books for their graduate studies. But rather than think of happy memories, I think of a maniac brandishing guns and rambling into a camera.
And that's just what he wanted. So in a sense he (or the demons within him) "wins". And that pisses me off.
As an aside, it also shows how around the bend he was rambling about Mercedeses and whatnot in Blacksburg. Most people would think of Blacksburg as being borderline hick town. (The surrounding area would be real hick town for most outsiders.) To call people there snobbish or wealthy is nothing short of amazing. Tech is very much a middle-class school.
The other thing, though, that actually hurts on top of it all is the media coverage, which has been astonishing for its insensitivity and aggressiveness towards the people in Blacksburg. Every interview I have seen, whether it is with professors, students or staff, has been of an accusing tone, as if they are to blame. Cho's roommate was practically called negligent for not telling the school administration Cho didn't talk to people. Some anchors have openly called for people to file lawsuits. One professor, a poet and English professor who had been one of Cho's teachers, was cut off in an interview for not going along with all the second-guessing. The utter lack of human decency in the name of ratings combined with inane commentary on the level of verbal diarrhea has been shocking.
The thing that does at least restore some balance to it, however, has been the support from "rival" universities, not all of it symbolic, either. Florida State and the University of Miami are contributing money to Tech memorial scholarships as just one example of many I've heard of. Naturally that doesn't get reported in the mainstream media, who are apparently only interested in second-guessing the entire Tech administration and community, not even giving them the chance to grieve while sticking microphones in any face they can find. (My parents wrote some scathing letters to MSNBC and CNN tearing into them over the coverage.)
Other small gestures have helped, too. The spontaneous decision of the Washington Nationals to wear Tech ballcaps during the Braves game was a nice touch earlier in the week. Students at various schools around the country have started wearing maroon and orange. And as much as I dislike his politics, I appreciate President Bush coming down for a visit.
Tech itself has also done some gestures that are nice. The students who died will all get their degrees posthumously at Commencement. There will be scholarship funds started for both of the murdered professors. Students will also get generous terms for completing their studies this semester.
For what it's worth, tomorrow has unofficially been declared Hokie Nation Day -- wear maroon and orange if you want to show you care and show sympathy for the victims and their families.
Even so, it still hurts when an innocent moment of reading a book to my kids instantly leads me to think of the deaths of over thirty people and the ravings of a madman...and, for all the overwrought sense of it, of "paradise lost".