the laid.back Buddhist has MOVED...back!

Friday, August 31

Why It's Different

I've so many topics I want flesh out into full-fledged posts... but I can't make this a side note. Neither can I wait until later.

I can't afford to give into my defense-coping mechanism this time around now that I recognize it.

April 16th. It's been a frequent topic of late in my life.

Particularly since this week we got sent 2 Security Notice emails on what seems to be a continuing incident. I know exactly how I'd have felt if this happened before 4/16. I would've thought, "Well, that's random and jeez, what a weirdo!"

I'd have shrugged it off in the next heartbeat.

But I can't do that any more. My guard can't help but be up, and I'm waiting...for what? A tentative fear flirts in the back of my mind. Because nothing is ordinary, even as life goes on... Life is different.

For the record, I've complete faith that all the different police forces working together are doing their utmost to protect our community. They're every inch deserving of our respect and gratitude. I remember the Morva incident last Fall (also a Monday) on the first day of school. How some students took the opportunity of cancelled classes to hang out and play volleyball while the police were searching for Morva. Granted it was a beautiful sunny day, and Morva was quickly labeled off as that crazy kid off his rocker. I understand we are college students, and simply tend to go with the flow, even if it's somewhat bizzare. In fact, Facebook groups along the lines of "I survived Morva" were already being created!

But all that pissed me off. I felt it was so very disrespectful. An officer (Officer Sutphin) was killed early that morning while protecting our safety. It was my first week as a Resident Advisor (really, all things imaginable and un-imaginable happened to Res Life last year), and I was thankful my residents respected my wishes, our police, and the university lockdown.

I remember going to Officer Sutphin's memorial service Thursday.

How in making sure all my residents were okay with what happened, I had forgotten to make sure I was. There I was sitting in the pew, just listening. Honoring his life. Then I couldn't stop crying and crying, realizing belatedly that I forgot to bring tissues. It hadn't occurred to me that I might've needed them.

This is how I cope. I need to be forced to let it all out. To deal with the aftermath repercussions.

The day of April 16th, a girl came knocking outside of our dormitory's exit nearest to my room. Her boyfriend had been shot and he was hiding with her friend behind the tennis courts next to Cassell. In the face of all her extreme distraught, I became extremely calm by default. She thrust her phone into my hands. I verified her boyfriend's location. She wanted to know if she could take him to hospital and would the police prevent her since they had blocked off all streets (like I said, she was really and understandably distraught). The moment I said of course, that she can and should...she was running back to the tennis courts.

I never got her name.

My cell phone wasn't working of course, so I used the campus phone to notify the police. Then, it was time to let my supervisor know (she was in another building) and that's when all the adrenaline I had put on pause started rushing in, full-forced. My heart was running a mile a minute. And, I was pratically incoherent, stuttering like a broken record over sentences, as I told her what had happened.

After April 16th, I refused to watch or read any media for rest of school. I had residents to take care of, friends to simply be with. Classes were cancelled for the week, but I had duty the night of the Candlelight Vigil. I also took emergency duty for one of my staff, so I only went home for 2 days that week. I didn't mind at all, in fact I wanted it to be that way. I was in the mode, you see. A zombie. Supportive and empathetic, yes, but a walking zombie nonetheless.

Basically, I didn't fully mourn until I finally came home in May.

I appreciate all the positive changes that have resulted because of our university's tragedy (though, still skeptical of spending $22 million on a building). Even the frenzy of playing blame-game has its benefits because when people ask questions, seek answers...holes in the system are receiving due attention.

As a collective, my friends and I have recovered from the worst of the aftermath. But we are still recovering. We are comforted to see our mixed, complex feelings reflected in each another's eyes.

Unable to explain. Just understood.

April 16th is a part of my subconscious. It's a memory, lessons I will carry for the rest of my life. However, the warning alerts about this a guy around campus brings that subconscious to the forefront, into my conscious thoughts. It makes me want to go into that mode again.

Thankfully, writing can be a form self-therapy.

16 Musing(s):

Anonymous said...

Please be careful and forever vigilant my friend. You are right that writing is therapy, and we all need that in some form or another. The other thing we need is laughter which I think we both get a little of when reading these posts and comments.

Kymerean aka Bobby

Erina Hart said...

Joanne, I had no idea you were there. Reading this post made me think back to that day. Students at my college were in complete shock. They kept talking for weeks. There were even some students that left the day of the shooting. They couldn’t yet deal with the news.

This post was so beautifully written. The story about the girl seeking your help seemed dreamlike (but in the way of a nightmare). I am so proud of you for helping her. You were both in a terrifying situation.

I’m so glad you have writing to help you cope. Use your pen as a weapon to combat any pain you may still feel. Your words are honest and true. Inspire others with ink.

Anonymous said...

Didn't know you where there! Must have been like a nightmare. Good to know you are safe and sound after all!

I think your a great self-therapist - very well written post!

Wishing you a wonderful end to your week:-)

Sarcasm Abounds said...


I can't imagine what it was like. In fact I am willing to go so far as to say no one who hasn't been this close to a tragedy can.

I think blogging is good therapy, which is why I do it. I mkae myself feel better, and if my words affect someone else, so much the better.

As for your particular tragedy, as an outsider, it amazes me all the members of leadership have not thrown themselves on their swords. I feel they bear some responsibily, as, (at least as the media has portrayed it) they had ample warning.

However, as Columbine happened a stone's throw from me, and no one took responsibility for that either, I may be a bit too cynical. . .


jon said...

I was in the middle of a terrorist incident and every time I am in certain situations it reminds me and brings back a flood of memories. but the ugliness of it passes some what and I have learned to turn the suffering of it into a positive force.

I have no doubt that as you continue to confront it and heal that you are going to nurture others who have been through the unimaginable and help them heal as well. I can tell this about your nature. And you have my prayers and thoughts.

thethinker said...

I can't imagine what it must've been like to actually be there. It's great that you could be there for other people when they needed it. Never forget to take care of yourself, too.

paisley said...

and i thank you joann for sharing this with me.. i just became acquainted with your blog thru an interview you did on blog interview.. and i am thrilled that i found you in time for this post... i have you in my reader and will be lurking if not commenting,,, thanks again for are the first person i have "known" that was there... and i thank you for taking me back there with you... it was very courageous...

Anonymous said...

Hey Joanne, I came upon your blog for the first time today and have fallen in love with it. Your writing is amazing. I have featured you on my blog as part of Blog Day 2007.

Anonymous said...

I hope you are feeling better and my regards to all the people of Virgina Tech.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone here. You've written this beautifully. Thank you for sharing.

mikkers said...

as i mentioned earlier when you brought this up during the football game...

it is hard to escape the reverberations of april 16th and everything that is connected to it. unlike everyone else who heard about it through the news and then promptly became embroiled in the daily happenings of their life...april 16th has become our life. it is what we live with and what affects us. we live with the repercussions of it and see the drill field hokie memorial stones every day.

everytime we swipe our hokie cards to get into the dorms, we are reminded exactly why they are on 24 hour lock down. everytime we go into a classroom, we are reminded why there are new shiny locks on the handles.

but we're getting through it and i think if the rest of the world just left us alone we could get past it a lot faster.

Joanne said...

Thanks for all the kind words. Very much appreciated as it was a difficult post for me write (and to actually post). But I'm glad I finally did. Sorry I won't reply to all comments individually like I usually do.

The Chick said...

Sharing these thoughts will help you and so many others touched by tragedies like this. You are such a strong woman.

Anonymous said...

Jo - Stay strong. I've read your blog for a short while, as well as your thoughts about these events and while I'm sorry for what you went through there it seems to me like the students and admin staff couldn't have hoped for a more caring or responsive person to be there with them when they needed help. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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Winston Churchill