April 21, 2007
Ashley Renfrow, a Virginia Tech graduate student from Chesapeake, Va., sheds a tear while praying with friends during a prayer service Wednesday, April 18, 2007, at the drillfield on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va. A student gunman killed at least 30 students and teachers at the school on Monday. (AP Photo/The News & Advance, Chet White)
(AP Photo/The News & Advance, Chet White)
Today is a Day of Mourning.
There is simply no way to make sense of the senseless killings at Virginia Tech. What we try to do is put some sort of sensible explanation on the inexplicable tragedy. Impossible!

I know the school really well and have been there many times and can imagine the pall covering the school like a shroud.


First, there was the convocation. Let the grieving come to some sort of "life goes on." The highlight was a Virginia Tech poet and English professor, Nikki Giovanni.

At first I wondered why Giovanni felt the need to equate the Virginia Tech tragedy with most every evil in the world, but still, no criticism here. She ended well, with a poem: "We are sad today and we will be sad for quite awhile. We are not moving on. We are embracing our mourning. We are Virginia Tech. We are strong enough to stand tall fearlessly, we are brave enough to bend and cry, and sad enough to know we must laugh again. "We will prevail! We will prevail! We will prevail! We are Virginia Tech!"

After her speech, there was wild applause, an outpouring of emotion. I was moved.

No explanation can be made for this tragedy. We live in a very violent society. One of the thoughts among many as I watched and listened to the Memorial Service was how the Iraqis experience this violence every single day. Almost 200 Iraqis have died in the last few days.


The shooter was Korean- Cho Seung-Hui, 23. Cho is the family name for about 20-25% of Koreans. Park and Lee make up most of the rest. In Korea people bearing the same family name, as Cho, Park, Lee, etc., are embarrassed by any besmirch of the name, to a degree that Americans canít understand.

Based on my knowledge of the culture, the Korean people literally will be burdened about this in a big way-one of their own. Although in America, they will see it as "losing face." Their whole lives are built around the Confucian philosophy( two guides: cultivate morally, cultivate humanity, or benevolence.Teachings formulated by Confucius emphasized devotion to parents, family, friends, and ancestral worship. Also central to Confucianism is ethicality and the maintenance of justice and peace. )

Confucian philosophy really is not a religion but a philosophy of living. Kibun is the word which most describes it: pride, face, mood, feelings, or state of mind.

In KoreaTown in Los Angeles, the feelings of shame due to this tragedy are rampant. There are over 2 million Koreans in America. No single group of people revere America like the South Koreans. In some ways, it is a love/hate relationship. Based on who they are, older Koreans will be the first to say that they would not exist had it not been for the American rescue during the Korean war. Younger Koreans who have not lived through it love the American way of life but not the Americans.

In this tragedy, however, all South Koreans will stand toe to toe in shame. Americans view this as a sad, useless tragedy and weep with the people. Americans lament the loss, but they do so individually. Not so with the Koreans. The Koreans believe they have been shamed by a fellow countryman. They hang their heads, even though they have no responsibility in it.


In this tragedy, we are faced with the ambiguities of what the media means to our society. We want news. We are an open society. The media performs a useful function, but as I watched all the media malaise, I couldn't help but think, what is going on? A circus!

What we realize as usual is that the media is not interested in the truth, grief, whatever; they are interested in a story and they are giving us stories.


Grief is a powerfully consuming emotion without adequate description and feelings of empathy for the families are felt by most, especially parents.

Parents send their kids off to college and are concerned about grades, the choices their kids make, binge drinking, adinfinitum, but safety is not high on the priority list.

Any death is sad and the loss of the physical presence. The loss of the ability to call a son or daughter and say, "How's it going?" is devastating.

As my seminary professor often said, "Sometimes there is a sympathy for people that is so great that you simply do not know what to say." I am currently there.

A type of terror came to roost at Virginia Tech and it was in the form of one crazied person. Why? There is no answer. We second guess. Some will use this to push issues like gun control, lack of response, whatever. Simply, as my Dad use to say "it is what it is."

Our hearts go out to the loved ones of those murdered. God help us.

Virginia Tech Cadets stand with their heads down at a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings in Blacksburg, Virginia April 17, 2007. Cho Seung-Hui, the gunman who massacred 32 people at Virginia Tech university, was identified on Tuesday as a student from South Korea and a troubled loner whose behavior had sometimes alarmed those around him. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)
(Rick Wilking/Reuters)
In Memorium: Don Ho

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Hawaiian singer Don Ho is shown in a May 1977 file photo. Legendary Hawaiian crooner Don Ho, who entertained tens of thousands of tourists for four decades and his best known for his catchy signature tune 'Tiny Bubbles,' has died. He was 76. Publicist Donna Jung confirmed the singer's death to The Associated Press, but had no immediate details. (AP Photo)
(AP Photo)
This was a humorous name given Don by a neighbor when I lived in Germany.

Don Ho transitioned from this life to the next this past weekend of heart failure(Saturday April 14, 2007). He's up there singing "Tiny Bubbles" in God's heavenly choir. I have no doubt.

American GIs on R and R in Hawaii were introduced to Don; and in ways, small and large, he endeared himself.

I remember his talk during his show. It went something like, "I want to welcome all the American GIs from Vietnam to my part of the world and to the show. I cannot begin to tell you how much you mean to me and to all Hawaiians. When I was a little boy I use to marvel at the planes flying into and out of Hawaii. And, I was inspired and joined up. One of my all time best decisions. Thank you for what you are doing and never forget, we love you and appreciate you. God bless you and return you home safely"

There we sat, a little like Lil' Abner's, Joe Btfsplk with a cloud hanging over our heads, never doubting for a moment that Don was sincere.

Don eased our pain a little and we've never forgotten him. He was more than an entertainer, he was Hawaii and for a few short days so were we. So long Don, slack jaw or not, our world is a little reduced since you're not in it.

Related Articles on The Net:

Entertainer Don Ho, Hawaii's best ambassador, dies at 76 by John Berger

A student prays in a chapel at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, April 16, 2007. A gunman killed 32 people at the university, many of them students attending class, and then shot himself dead on Monday in the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES)
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
God Bless The Virginia Tech Students, The Victims, and Their Families.

Voice of a killer(CNN)

More About Gunman(abcnews)

At least 33 dead in Virginia Tech shootings(USA Today)

A human life is a story told by God. -Hans Christian Andersen

Grief is neither a disorder nor a healing process; it is a sign of health itself, a whole and natural gesture of love. Nor must we see grief as a step toward something better. No matter how much it hurtsóand it may be the greatest pain in lifeógrief can be an end in itself, a pure expression of love. - Gerald May

When my father died, I moved into the space he left inside me and found out it was where I belonged. Farland Fish

From left are Duke lacrosse players Reade Seligmann, of Essex Fells, N.J., David Evans, of Bethesda, Md., and Collin Finnerty, of Garden City, N.Y., arriving at court in Durham, N.C., in these Dec. 15, 2006 file photos. The Duke University lacrosse team members could learn as early as Wednesday April 11, 2007 whether state prosecutors will drop the remaining charges accusing them of sexually assaulting a stripper at a team party. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
The recent news conference by the North Carolina Attorney General and by the Duke Lacrosse team should sadden and wake us up to the shortcomings of our justice system. Millions of dollars were spent on the defense. Thank goodness Attorney General, Roy Cooper, dropped all the charges.

David Evans(one of the accused players) said something very profound, yet so simple and true: "Many people across this country, across this state, would not have the opportunity that we did, and this could simply have been brushed underneath the rug just as another case and some innocent person would end up in jail for their entire life," "It's just not right." Examples abound of people prosecuted without the funds to fight conviction. The result is many innocent victims ending up in jail.

I have a good friend whose son has just been offered six to ten years in prison. I'm not totally sure that I have all the facts straight, but the significant ones I do. The son has not been a paragon of morality. In some ways, he is a typical young early twenties type. Most of his transgressions have been wrapped around drugs. And, trust me on this, drugs are much more pervasive in our society than the average person believes. I see parents all the time who don't have a clue.

( The PBS program Addiction, spelled out the drug culture; and, MTV,showed a history of drug use . I was amazed at how little the drug culture has changed--more sophisticated now and more pervasive. )

So... My friend's son is all into the drug culture. Enter some teenagers to a party, the murky world of drugs and sex and from it ensued a correspondence between my friend's son and these girls. Alas, suddenly we are talking teenagers. Parents get involved. My friend's son and others are caught in the web.

Former Duke lacrosse players from left, Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann applaud during a news conference in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, April 11, 2007. Prosecutors dropped all charges Wednesday against the three Duke lacrosse players accused of sexually assaulting a stripper at a party, saying the athletes were innocent victims of a 'tragic rush to accuse' by an overreaching district attorney. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
An overzealous prosecutor and police detective ignore the facts: One girl in question relatively exonerates my friend's son, they've never met or at least she doesn't remember him at the party.

Enter lawyers, money spent, plea bargains and now a young 25 year old who has only relative guilt is about to become a victim of a criminal justice system run amuck. Think Duke Lacrosse team. Was the Lacrosse team innocent? Not totally as they did have a party and strippers showed. Is my friend's son totally innocent? No. Unfortunately, he does not have the money that the Duke Lacrosse team's parents have.

So what will happen to my friend's son? Probably jail for him and a ruined life.

WHO IS TO BLAME? Well, many. But for sure, one that rarely takes the heat and I don't understand: the judge. What do we have a judges for? Are they so bound by rules that they can't use any common sense? In the case of the Duke Lacrosse players, it became evident early on that there was scant evidence and that was tainted. But, it went on and on and then entered politics.

In the case of my friend's son, there's guilt in all directions, but it is not easily determined. Where is the judge? Is there no common sense? With alcohol and drugs, what do we expect? Wake up and smell the roses. KT

Heaven help us. God bless America.

Related Articles on The Net:

Apology to Duke lacrosse players not enough By Jemele Hill

The Duke Case: Innocent

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