Monday, April 15, 2013

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers -- so many caring people in this world." (Mr. Rogers)

This week snuck up on me.  Almost slipped my mind, what with 10 flights in four weeks, a wedding, a crazy job, a job search, and this pesky little dissertation.  I am so tired.  It wasn't until I came home from a meeting and turned on the afternoon news that the significance of this week sunk in.  Not until the two bombs at the Boston marathon did I remember why and how much I hate this week.  

You see, tomorrow is the seventh anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings, any higher ed leader's worst nightmare.  Friday marks the 20th anniversary of the Waco incident and the 18th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, two cities that will forever be home for this New Yorker.  And Saturday is the 14th anniversary of the Columbine shootings, which changed the landscape of school violence and safety in America.  Maybe it sounds a bit like I'm making a mountain out of what could be random coincidences, but when you grew up in Oklahoma City, were in high school during Columbine, went to college not far from the Waco site, and studied higher ed administration when Virginia Tech happened, it matters.  Not to mention the fact that I live in a post-September 11 New York, where everything is always on high alert.  It's just a strange week.

And in 2013, the week began how no week ever should, on a beautiful day a lot like so many other beautiful days when things end in a nightmare.  When things like this happen, the last thing I want to do is work on my crisis management dissertation.  I know too much about too many things by now.  Tonight I sat at dinner with my closest friends, whose friends and family ran the marathon and crossed the finish line minutes before the bombs exploded.  I'm sitting in bed listening to helicopters circle my city, watching for even the slightest sign that something might be out of the ordinary.  

Some of the mid-April violence isn't so random.  Columbine happened on Hitler's birthday.  Oklahoma City was planned to mark the Waco anniversary, which according to conspiracy theory was aligned with the Battles of Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775).  I am making no assumptions about what happened in Boston today, but I'm heartbroken that one of the city's biggest, happiest holidays to commemorate those very battles ended in such terror.  Virginia Tech, I think, was just a coincidence.  Still, I usually just want to crawl into bed and watch Lifetime movies when this week rolls around every year.  But I don't, because the survivor tree still stands in Oklahoma City and the New York City daffodils planted in remembrance of September 11 bloom without fail, reminders that the best way to honor the past is to really live.

So you follow Mr. Rogers' advice.  He never led us wrong before.  You look for the helpers instead of the hurters...and you become one of them.  You pray for peace, even when it's nearly impossible to fully grasp the 400+ references to "fear not" in the Bible.  And, as a man named Kyle Lake taught a generation of Baylor students in a sermon that went un-preached...

"Live.  And Live Well.  BREATHE.  Breathe in and breathe deeply.  Be PRESENT.  Do not be past. Do not be future.  Be now.  If you've recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE.  And grieve well.  Taste every ounce of friendship.  Taste every ounce of life.  Because it is most definitely a gift.  All we need to do is love God, embrace beauty, and live life to the fullest."

1 comment:

  1. Well said Katie, thanks for sharing your reflections.