Tonight, I took part in the candlelight vigil for the victims of the April 16th shooting, which happened 10 years ago. I was only 10 years old then. I hardly remember 2007-- I remember my fifth grade teachers, I remember which of my classmates I was friends with, and I vaguely remember reading horrific articles in The Washington Post about the shooting, articles which I was far too young to fully understand. That’s about all I remember.
We say that we will #neVerforgeT, that #WeRemember, but I’m not sure exactly what we-- my generation of Hokies-- are supposed to remember. I can’t really remember the 32 victims, since I never knew them. I know that I will never feel their absence the way their friends and family members do. And I know that I will never feel the unspeakable pain of April 16th in the same way as those who survived it. I’m simply here now, at Virginia Tech, wondering how exactly to commemorate a day that only flickers dimly in my own memory.
I think, even if only a little, I have it figured out.
Commemorating April 16th is about more than just remembering those whose lives were lost. It’s about remembering all the life that still remains in the world, remembering every good thing that exists until you have enough light stored up inside of you to at least momentarily combat the darkness.
I want to remember how lovely the sun feels on my skin on beautiful spring days. I want to remember that local coffee shops serve really good lattes and have really nice baristas. I want to remember that time I saw The Lion King on Broadway and tears streamed down my face because I just couldn’t believe that I was actually sitting in a theater in New York City, and the time I first learned to read, and every one of my favorite books and movies and songs. I want to remember every kind thing that has ever been said or done around me and to remember that kind people are still around, always, even on the days when it seems that the world’s supply of goodness should be completely exhausted.
I think sometimes that’s all we can do. We remember that there is still a bit of good in every corner of this world, even in each of us. We remember the things that make us feel good and light and happy. If we don’t at least remember those things, I don’t know what we have left.
One of my favorite lines from J.R.R. Tolkien is, “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” I have to believe that he’s right.
I have to believe that love and grief can coexist, but more importantly, that love and light will always, always be greater than grief. I have to remember that, to remind myself of it daily.
We do remember, after all. We are Virginia Tech. We will prevail.