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Paradigm shift

The Virginia Tech shootings were five years ago today.  For most people nationwide, it was a day of shock and sadness that quickly receded.  For me, it shook my foundations even more than did 9/11.

When the shootings happened I was just a year out of working as a college administrator, just five years out of being in college, and had one sister in college and one about to go.  I felt the events of the day as an administrator, as a student, as a family member – and in the end, as a neighbor and friend.  People ask where you were on September 11, 2001. I can tell you exactly where I was and what I heard when my sister told mom that Reema had died.  If I ever needed to cry on command, all I would need to think of is the cell phones ringing in students’ backpacks, called by families desperately hoping to get through.

The Virginia Tech shootings changed how I think about being in school.  In grad school, friends wondered why I sat on the aisles in lecture classes, always in the very front or very back.  In my classroom now, I sometimes lay awake at night, idly thinking about how helpful it is that I share a folding wall with a colleague’s room, because it doubles our ability to maneuver around a shooter’s movements.  The day’s emotional hold on me can still catch me unawares, moving me to tears in the space of unexpected seconds.

There is less attention paid to the anniversary each year, and I suppose that’s the human and normal thing to do.  But I still remember; if not everyday, then so many of the days – and I expect I always will.

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