Massacre stirs our empathy - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Massacre stirs our empathy

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Posted: Wednesday, April 18, 2007 6:14 am | Updated: 6:54 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

You can only remotely imag ine what it is like at Virginia Tech. In the hours after the shoot ing deaths of 33 people, signs of that college’s community spirit were displayed on our television screens Monday and Tuesday.

Students huddled to com fort each other, lit candles prayed and filled the campus basketball arena in mutual support while the echoes of the shots had not yet completely faded from the halls.

It showed that although we are not in control of everything in our lives and are unsure about when or how tragedy may strike, what we can con trol is our ability to think, to cope and to reach out, to share the burden, to ease the trepida tion and uncertainty.

We also can be present in the lives of others, no matter how distant or seemingly insignificant the gesture. Arizona State University announced candlelight vigil will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at its Hayden Lawn in Tempe to remember the Virginia Tech victims.

But while there is strength and virtue among us, there are also idiots and demons. As expected, there are occasional would-be copycats, at least one here in the Valley, as KNXV-TV (Channel 15) reported Tuesday The campus at Estrella Mountain Community College in the west Valley was shut down due to a phoned-in threat of violence, Channel 15 said.

And before the Virginia Tech tragedy, threats of violence at Tempe’s Corona del Sol High School that started last week led police to increase their on-campus presence, as Tuesday’s Tribune reported.

My old ASU political science professor, George Peek used to teach — paraphrasing the words of some obscure political philosopher whose name I can’t remember — that man has a tremendous capacity for good but has a tendency to ward evil. To me, that means life is usually a good thing occasionally interrupted by fear and stupidity.

We assume the risks of life although we arm ourselves with the knowledge of past events in that assumption.

As Americans, we lead blessed lives compared to the rest of the world. Our history shows that our national tragedies are not chronic so much as they are abrupt. Think of the events of Dec. 7, 1941, of Sept 11, 2001, or the devastation caused by recent hurricanes.

As such, we are seldom as prepared — some might say resigned — to calamity as are those from other lands. But what makes us stand apart how well we are able to rise above our circumstances.

That’s not to say recovery from the violence in Blacks burg, Va., will be easy or quick Too much suffering has oc curred for that. But it will hap pen, aided by people in places like Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe Chandler and Gilbert standing in solidarity this week with oth ers most have never met on the opposite side of the country.

In times like these, we are not a collection of factions or regions but one people. They are us and we are them.

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