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Monday, April 16, 2007

A Moment of Silence

As of this writing, the confirmed death toll in the Virginia Tech massacre is 33 and climbing. I still haven't been able to get in touch with my friend Allen who is a professor in the Engineering Department there. I know that he's probably fine, but sometimes knowing the probabilities isn't enough, even for a mathophile like myself.

I usually get my news from the Web, but somehow during a disaster like this, I feel better getting my streaming commentary from the cable news juggernaut. As I flipped ever faster through the channels from CNN to FoxNews to MSNBC to CNBC and beyond, I tried to put myself in their shoes. I am planning on becoming a teacher after all. In a few years, I will be standing in front of a class, in the midst of my prepared lesson plan, and there will always be an outside chance that a discontent, disaffected, misguided student will burst into the room with semi-automatic weapons fire. I accept this. It is one of myriad ways that I may die. I am a human being and we are a notoriously fragile bunch.

But what will I do with this knowledge. Do I turn the school into a prison, hire armed guards, install metal detectors, conduct random locker searches, and profile "high-risk" teens? That's not a world I would want to live in, even if I thought it would make me safer, which I don't. Part of walking out the door every day is knowing that you may die. You can hide behind whatever protective facade you like, be it religion or the latest fad diet, and that won't change the fact that at some point you will cease to live. No amount of legislation or safety protocols is going to change that.

So I mourn the loss of those who were killed and sympathize with those left behind. But I choose to live my life on my terms. Ben Franklin said

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety"
There are some bargains I am willing to make. I will give up drinking soda for a healthier body. I will stop driving a car for a healthier world. But I will not give up my freedoms for anything.

"Every man dies. Not every man really lives." -Braveheart

"I ain't so afraid of losing something that I ain't gonna try and have it." -Firefly


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