BLACKSBURG, Va. - A gunman opened fire in a dorm and classroom at Virginia Tech on Monday, killing at least 30 people in the...
The presence of armed people is certainly a deterrent to many potential wrong doers, but I don't believe that would have proven true in the case of Mr. Cho. Had there been armed people nearby, they might well have stopped him after he had killed some of his victims and kept him from killing all thirty-two, but I do not believe they would have proven to be a deterrent in the sense of causing Cho to choose not to do this. Cho set about to commit suicide in a way that would correct his perception of how people saw him.
Cho perceived himself to be a marginal person, unloved and uncared for, rejected not only by the "beautiful people" -- the athletes and beauty queens -- but pretty much unnoticed by everybody. In the package he mailed to NBC News between the shootings, he spoke of Eric and Dylan, undoubtedly referring to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the infamous perpetrators of the Columbine High School Massacre.
This was a long time coming: not only in planning and purchasing everything he thought he would need, from handguns and ammo, to chains and locks, but Cho took the time to reshape his skinny body, working out to build muscle, training himself to be larger than life, reinventing himself as "A. Ishmael." Cho was not unlike Harris and Klebold who also felt marginalized and insignificant until their Matrix like massacre. In their tortured souls, they, too, reinvented themselves that fateful day eight years ago. It was the revenge of the nerds, the unpopular, socially inept people who perceive themselves betrayed by fate and ignored by the rich, the beautiful, and the popular. Loathing themselves, they also loath others. Miserable and angry inside, they come to hate "happy" people. Cho hated Christians.
As a pastor and a teacher of high school students, I think I know a little bit about what people like Harris, Klebold and Cho feel before they go berserk. They are often the kids who aren't chosen for the team on the playgrounds of our school yards. As they grow up, many spend their adolescence in the agony of unrequited love, obsessed with one person, then another. Too afraid even to ask the person for a date, they daydream of various fantasies where they are the hero who wins the heart of the idol of their affections. They are the "97-pound weaklings" of the comic book ads I read as a child. Charles Atlas advertised his body-building program with a cartoon of a skinny boy getting sand kicked in his face and his girl stolen from him by a big bully. Then the boy goes home, reads Charles Atlas' ad, and transforms himself into a muscular man who goes back to that beach, finds the bully and beats him up. In Atlas' ad, the newly muscled man wins the admiration of the girls on the beach, all of whom want to feel his muscles. That was back in the fifties, but given popular culture with its inculcation of graphic, bloody violence, "97-pound weaklings" now dream of shooting their villains and rescuing the objects of their unrequited love. Every sentient creature needs love, even dogs and cats -- how much more those who bear the shattered image of the divine.
I grieve for the victims of this senseless violence, for the agony of their families, their wounded, empty hearts and the vision of missing seats at future family gatherings, always empty, holidays from now on, forever tinged with sadness. But I also grieve for kids like Cho and his icons, Harris and Klebold. Thankfully, the vast majority of these sad youth will never commit murder as these young men did. But long before Cho and Harris and Klebold committed mass murder, their souls had been murdered. Fully responsible for their own actions, they are, nonetheless, victims themselves, victims of a culture with a terribly unbiblical view of youth and beauty and romance and violence. Like you and me, they are victims of what happened in a now locked garden, paradise lost, and born instead on this sad planet where people so often hurt each other so deeply, where children can be merciless in their teasing, where souls are lacerated and spirits crushed, at home and school and, sadly, sometimes even at the youth gatherings of a church or synagogue.
And I also grieve for the Cho family. Cho's sister spoke through an attorney, and I've placed her words below.
I thank my God that I know nothing of the grief of any of these people. God has been so good to me and my family. I have been so profoundly blessed with everything -- from good friends and good health to finances and privilege -- all my children and grandchildren are healthy, and their futures are bright with hope. I am fulfilled and blessed to have a job that I would do on the side even if I had to earn my living another way. My wife is my best friend, and we still enjoy romantic times together. We can cry together and laugh together, and we pray together every day. Most of all, I know the Lord Jesus and have peace in my heart, a conscience cleansed by the blood of the Son of God. I've known times of unspeakable joy in worship. I could go on and on, but I'll say only this: why has God been so good to me? I am no more deserving than Cho, no better than Cho's father and grandfather, who, given their culture, will wear family and ethnic shame to their graves.
May God have mercy on all whose lives have been ripped apart by this dreadful tragedy.
May God have mercy on us, Bob Vincent
From the Cho family:
On behalf of our family, we are so deeply sorry for the devastation my brother has caused. No words can express our sadness that 32 innocent people lost their lives this week in such a terrible, senseless tragedy.
We are heartbroken.
We grieve alongside the families, the Virginia Tech community, our State of Virginia, and the rest of the nation. And, the world.
Every day since April 16, my father, mother and I pray for students Ross Abdallah Alameddine, Brian Roy Bluhm, Ryan Christopher Clark, Austin Michelle Cloyd, Matthew Gregory Gwaltney, Caitlin Millar Hammaren, Jeremy Michael Herbstritt, Rachael Elizabeth Hill, Emily Jane Hilscher, Jarrett Lee Lane, Matthew Joseph La Porte, Henry J. Lee, Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan, Lauren Ashley McCain, Daniel Patrick O’Neil, J. Ortiz-Ortiz, Minal Hiralal Panchal, Daniel Alejandro Perez, Erin Nicole Peterson, Michael Steven Pohle, Jr., Julia Kathleen Pryde, Mary Karen Read, Reema Joseph Samaha, Waleed Mohamed Shaalan, Leslie Geraldine Sherman, Maxine Shelly Turner, Nicole White, Instructor Christopher James Bishop, and Professors Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, Kevin P. Granata, Liviu Librescu and G.V. Loganathan.
We pray for their families and loved ones who are experiencing so much excruciating grief. And we pray for those who were injured and for those whose lives are changed forever because of what they witnessed and experienced.
Each of these people had so much love, talent and gifts to offer, and their lives were cut short by a horrible and senseless act.
We are humbled by this darkness. We feel hopeless, helpless and lost.
This is someone that I grew up with and loved. Now I feel like I didn’t know this person.
We have always been a close, peaceful and loving family. My brother was quiet and reserved, yet struggled to fit in. We never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence.
He has made the world weep. We are living a nightmare.
There is much justified anger and disbelief at what my brother did, and a lot of questions are left unanswered. Our family will continue to cooperate fully and do whatever we can to help authorities understand why these senseless acts happened. We have many unanswered questions as well.
Our family is so very sorry for my brother’s unspeakable actions. It is a terrible tragedy for all of us.