Day of Remembrance

Ten years ago I was an undergraduate student at Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS. I remember walking on campus that spring day and hearing about the… gosh, I don’t even know what to call it. Back then, I think it was referred to as the Virginia Tech Massacre; but now I don’t think they use that word anymore. It was a horrible and painful tragedy that permanently separated 32 people from their families and communities back in 2007. April 16 is a solemn day, but it is also a day of support and strength. Today, it is referred to as the Day of Remembrance, and I think that is a good thing.

In the weeks leading up to this 10-year memorial, there has been a lot of discussion in my classes and among my peers about the tragedy. We’ve been talking about issues related to safety in classrooms and buildings, mental health, and what we would could do to help keep something like this from happening again.

Before I even thought about writing this blog entry, I was just reading about the incident on April 16, 2007 The Chronicle of Higher Education “The Arc of Her Survival by Eric Hoover (April 9, 2017) which talks about Kristina Anderson, survivor of the April 16, 2007 attack, founder of The Koshka Foundation for safe schools, and co-founder of LiveSafe, a mobile safety app that is used by both colleges and businesses. I have only just read this article about Ms. Anderson, but let me tell you something: she is an amazing and inspiring person. Ms. Anderson lived through a horrific event and managed to turn that into an opportunity for healing, teaching, and guiding others.

We need to stay supportive of each other and we all need to take the initiative to connect with our peers. In this active engagement with one another, we are building a stronger community where we are more protected against threats. Mental illness can be an extremely sensitive subject and difficult to discuss, but it shouldn’t be. So many people are affected by varying levels of stress, depression, or other problems at different points in their lives and that’s normal. We are a healthier community when we aren’t afraid to talk about mental illness and to be there to help each other. On campus, the Cook Counseling Center is here and and they are more than willing to help any of us during our times of need.

You know, in higher education, we are under a lot of different kinds of stress. We’re trying to pursue our careers, spend time working on our home-lives, and must deal with responsibilities and other obligations and it can be hard to deal with sometimes. I think that we have a responsibility to look out for one another and to help one another stay grounded. Connect with people in your office, your classes, at your favorite hangouts. It will help breathe fresh air into your life and can keep your perspective healthy.

On this Day of Remembrance, I am thinking a lot about our motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) and I am thinking about building community. No matter how busy we think we are, we can’t be too busy for the human beings in our lives. I will try to live better every day and to set a positive example for all those with whom I interact.

2 Comments

  • alexpfp17 says:

    I am a geezer, went to VT as an undergrad, and had Dr. Librescu as a professor for Dynamics. He was a great and caring professor. When I heard that he was missing, I had an overwhelming feeling that he died doing something courageous. I didn’t find out until a few days later, but I knew it that night.

    Aside from that, the general feeling is that of being violated. It’s like some stranger broke into our house, hurt our family, then got away unpunished. It breaks something inside of you…

    I hate it when people use VT in political arguments (both sides do it). And when the news can’t help but show stories about it every April.

    (I feel so awkward talking about April 16th. It feels kind of selfish to talk about how I feel when so many families were destroyed…)

    • Sara Lamb Harrell says:

      Yeah, it is a very difficult topic to talk about. It is important, I think, for us to have these discussions. It certainly is uncomfortable, and it is very sad. It should happen more often than the anniversary of the tragedy that happened that day in April, because mental health issues in higher education are much more prevalent than we are willing to recognize or admit sometimes.

      My experience in higher education has not been without tragedy as well. During my master’s, one of my committee members committed suicide. Two years ago, my uncle, a faculty member at Delta State University, committed suicide after the deaths of two other people.

      While I wasn’t a VT student when the incident took place, I am now, and so in some way, part of that story is part of my story now, too. My heart breaks for those families and I am so moved by the community that VT proved itself to be in response to the tragedy that happened here.

      I don’t know that you should feel awkward or selfish for talking about April 16. I believe that it’s when we don’t talk about it that it becomes a worse issue. We have to talk about it so that we as a society don’t forget that it DOES happen and people need support. As a community, what happens when we don’t take care of ourselves, or care about each other? What happens when we purposefully forget the painful memories? We can’t forget those who died and we can’t act like it didn’t happen. Or that it couldn’t happen again, in some other community. I don’t know that it should be a politicized issue; but I do think it’s important to keep the discourse going.

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