Today our university community joins others across the country in memorializing the lives of the 32 victims killed on Monday at Virginia Polytechnic and State University during a rampage that remains inexplicable. How and where do we find words to explain to those 32 families why this happened? How and where do we find words to console them; to assuage the grief suffered by their loss, or even to help the family of the shooter cope with this massacre? How and where do we find words to explain to our own families, to our own colleagues and friends and to our country why tragic occurrences such as this one seem all too frequent in our society?
And how do we deal with the egregious contradiction that, on a university campus, on ground that is designed, protected, and held by society to be a place where human potential is fulfilled, that human potential should be destroyed in such a horrendous and precipitous act? As we look at the candles that burn here today, how do we not think of the extinguishing of those flames and the loss to our society of the individuals who worked and studied at Virginia Tech? How do we not think of Ryan Clark*, a biology, English and psychology major preparing to graduate next month? A 4.0 student, Clark planned to study for a PhD in psychology and was well known for his work with special needs children and adults. How do we not think of Austin Cloyd*, a freshman majoring in international studies in French, pictured with her big smile on the Virginia Tech Recreational Sports Web site? Cloyd lived in Central Illinois prior to her move in 2005 to Blacksburg, Va., to attend high school. How do we not think of Daniel Perez Cueva*, an international relations major from Peru, shot while attending a French class. How do we not think of Liviu Librescu*, an engineering and mechanics lecturer who had survived the Holocaust and reportedly blocked the door of his classroom, giving his body to protect students inside? And how do we not think of the additional 28 stories like these, equally as moving, each one representing a person working daily to fulfill potential that has now been taken away?
As we reflect on this tragic occurrence, we must also ask: how and where do we get the answers that will ensure that this will never happen again? For many of us, those answers may be found in our faith. For others, they may be found in our constant work to find ways to help stop people from dealing with their own pain by inflicting pain on others. Others will search different paths to come to terms with what has happened. Nevertheless, I believe the initial step in finding those answers must be in our individual and collective will to never forget. To never forget that human potential is to be valued and nurtured. To never forget what it feels like to suffer such a loss. For our University it means never forgetting the maddening irony that these flames of humanity that we memorialize today were snuffed out on a campus created to light flames of human potential.
On this day of remembrance, all of us can commit in our own ways, using our own potential, here within our SIUE community and in our external communities, to support and promote understanding, to protect individual rights, and to uphold the sanctity of human life.
Today we, the SIUE community, offer our most profound sympathies, our heartfelt prayers and our deepest support to our brothers and sisters at Virginia Tech. We will never forget.
*Information on victims obtained from www.msnbc.com.