College is a place filled with infinite opportunity. For many it is a place to make the treacherous transition from teenager to adult. Yet, adults often find new paths at college as well, either changing careers or making advancements in their current fields. College is a place for learning and creativity, a chance to discover the larger world and the many ideas and people that inhabit it.
Therefore, when such an institution is the scene of horrific violence, death and tragedy as Virginia Tech now is after a student opened fire and killed 33 of his classmates Monday before turning the gun on himself it is a stark and brutal juxtaposition. It is a reminder amidst the hope and optimism of a college campus that the "real world" can be, and often is, cruel, cold and painful. While students and professors are testing the boundaries of knowledge, we must acknowledge that little rhyme or reason exists in the world to explain why such things happen to good, innocent people.
Violence on a college campus is real to many of us in a way that war and terrorism never can be almost everyone has had some experience with college, whether they attended themselves or have a child who does.
In addition, unlike a terrorist plot that centers on choosing a target with political ramifications, a shooting like this could just as easily have happened at Ohio State University or even BGSU Firelands. One did happen at Case Western Reserve.
What makes it even more terrifying is that, for all intents and purposes, we are powerless to prevent these random acts of violence. Yes, over the next weeks and months blame will be assessed and every college in the country will add a "shooting rampage" scenario to its emergency plan, but there are limits to our ability to prevent these tragedies.
So, we offer our words of condolences to those 33 families, with the uncomfortable knowledge that it could just as easily be our community that had suffered such a loss. We grieve with and for them.
But, college is a place filled with infinite opportunity. In this case, those at Virginia Tech, as well as all of us, can grieve, grow and heal together. We might never be able to answer why, but we what we can do is discover our strength and resiliency.