Courage is not something that most people have just hanging around. In fact, most of us don’t even realize we have courage or need it until we must face something or come to terms with a situation for which courage is required. At those extraordinary and challenging moments in our lives, we are compelled to summon up courage from deep within the core of our being in order to meet the need of a particular moment or circumstance in which we find ourselves. The ability to call upon strength in the face of unimaginable pain or grief is the basic definition of courage.
This April 16, 2017 marked the 10th anniversary of the Massacre at Virginia Tech University where a mentally ill senior student gunned down 32 people. Seventeen others were wounded and before the rampage ended Cho, the gunman, turned the gun on himself. The events of that early Friday mid-morning, on a beautiful spring day, forever changed the lives of the Virginia Tech community in Blacksburg. The traumatic effects of bullets ringing out on the tranquil picturesque campus will never be forgotten by those who were most intimately affected, but all Virginians, as well as people across the nation, and the world, were also impacted by what happened at Virginia Tech 10 years ago. For years after, other acts of violence, and school shootings have been compared to the VA Tech shootings. And the family and friends who lost loved ones in the tragedy have been attempting to heal from their grief by trying to make certain that the lives of those they lost count for something and are never forgotten.
The courage to face unspeakable grief is something no individual would voluntarily choose as a way to embrace their journey towards the courageous. Then again, the pursuit of courage as a virtue is not how one generally comes to obtain it. No. If courage is defined as the ability to do something that frightens you or having pronounced strength in the face of great pain or grief, the healing journey is the gift of recognizing the courage you now possess as a result of your struggle to become whole once more after a tragedy like what happened at VA Tech 10 years ago. Unpacking the losses of that fateful day will continue for a lifetime, and it is both a private and public process. Each individual who died that day was related to an entire network of people and people groups. We imagine ourselves in a similar situation with similar circumstances and we wonder…would we have the courage to face something so traumatic as a mass murder or other like tragedies with the dignity, grace, and courage that the Virginia Tech families and community did in the days, weeks, months and years since that fateful day in April 10 years ago?
It is good to commemorate in order that we #NeverForget, but it is even more important that we remember to continue to work towards sensible gun control and reasonable background checks in order to purchase firearms. It is more important that we continue to lobby for more consistent and coordinated mental health care and that we facilitate preventative whole family care that help parents and educators to identify mental health issues earlier so that students can get help before they harm themselves or others. In order to #NeverForget, we should endeavor to remember to engage in the process of addressing the institutional and systemic barriers to CHANGE. Only then will the memory and the lives of those lost be honored with the respect they are due.