The first is the one described by one of the emergency workers who was attending to the dead victims. He tells of hearing their cell phones ringing and vibrating. Their parents, friends and loved ones were trying to get in touch with them to see if they were alright. The unanswered calls were the first indication that many had that their sons, daughters, and friends were among the slain.
The second scene was the semicircle of memorial stones on the campus lawn. Remarkably, there were 33 of them. One was a memorial to Seung-Hui Cho, the murderer. After a student organization placed the stone memorials in a semicircle on the main campus lawn, senior Katelynn L. Johnson added a stone for Cho. Johnson said she told almost no one about the stone because she feared a backlash.
She came forward after someone took it away, because she was outraged by the brief removal of the rock.
"I believe his life had value no matter what he did," she said. "We lost 33 people."
Johnson said she has received hundreds of messages supporting placement of the stone for Cho. She only got a few negative responses, and only one from the Tech community.
A new stone for Cho is on the far left of the semicircle, unmarked and slightly apart. But it is adorned with mourners' tributes like those on the other memorials: flowers, candles, beads in maroon and orange and a flag.
“Dear Cho,” a handwritten note says. “You are not excluded from our sorrow in death although you thought you were excluded from our love in life.” It continues: “I wish you had given us all a chance. Your choice was so final.”
Another letter, handwritten and covered in plastic, addresses him.
“I hope that if I ever met anyone like you I would have the courage and strength to reach out and change his or her life for the better.”
Another note says only three words: “I forgive you.”
I certainly hold no rebuke for any who have not yet been able to forgive Cho. At the same time, I stand in awe of those who have. Their actions hold out hope that our violence torn world can be healed. They remind us of another, who while hanging on a cross, said, “Father, forgive…”
©2007 C. David Hess