There are some things that are experienced by you and some that you have no relation to. And then there are some things where you feel the pain even when you have not been directly affected. One of them is the memorial service in my university held today where 32 innocent people paid with their lives for one person's foolishness and mental illness.
The university, faculty and students, the alumni and the families, all of us are mourning deeply for this act. No need to know the victims in person, it is enough that the lives were sacrificed when there was no need. There was so much passion, so much love, so much enthusiasm associated with each of the persons that you can feel it permeating through to you. The Norris Hall would forever be haunted and they would be forever remembered by one and all here. All of us have emerged, stronger and more ready to face the realities of life and to appreciate life and all its varied flavors better.
Though I was not at this campus when this sad incident happened, I can very easily relate to it as I see dear friends, faculty, lab mates, classmates and sundry who were here on that fateful day and could very well have been one of the victims. It sends a shudder through me when I think of it and what could have happened. How lives could have got changed in a moment's notice. This goes on to show how little time we all have(does anyone know when exactly they will die?) and how much time out of it we spend bickering and quarreling over silly issues. I'm sure all the loved ones of the victims would gladly give anything to be with them one more time, feel their arms around them one more time, feel those lips say their names one more time, have the opportunity to say how much they love them and how much they mean to them, have the opportunity to say how their lives brightened because of them, how many dreams each of the victims were a part of and how much more life can be.
I stay in a different place from my family and now I make it a point to talk to my parents and sister and family everyday. I especially take every possible opportunity to tell my mom how much I love her. For all that is possible, who knows if I would ever get a chance to tell her that again? I certainly don't want to leave this world with the regret that I haven't told her how special she is in my life. It doesn't reduce the potency of those words how many ever times you say it. In the Indian society, somehow, expressing one's feelings for another even if they were close relatives or friends, is considered a taboo or at the least an awkward thing. I, for one, would have told my parents that I loved them a dozen times in all my years of existence in India. Even though they know it and I know that they know it, we never said it out. But after coming here and knowing how life could change forever, I feel there is no time like the present to let your loved ones know how special they are in your life.
Even with friends, its better to tell things before you wait forever for the right moment. One of my friends is a friend of one of the victims. He is laden with grief and is guilty that he never told his friend how much love was there, untold, between them. Well, that has made me call long distance to a few of my close friends and speak to them about this and that for hours. Mind you, had I been in India and not had such an experience, I would've limited it to the times when both of us are free and when I see them online and calling them on special occasions. But now, I've called them time and again, sometimes even when they were sleeping at 2 am(R, I know I disturbed your sweet dreams with Ty that night... But I simply had to call!) And I've made some impromptu calls to my friends here. Just to tell them that I appreciate them being in my life and that I'm concerned for them. I used to be a person who was very controlled about her emotions and let it out only when she felt it was appropriate. Even now, I still have shades of that but I have realized that sometimes life is too short and its the present moment that matters the most. So if you get a call from me 'just like that', accept that it is my way of appreciating your presence in my life and be happy for the beautiful friendship that we share.
I heard one of my friends(a mom of two Hokies and a Hokie herself) say her experiences during that fateful day. She was at office and suddenly her son called saying that he was in lockdown and didn't know what was happening in the campus. She immediately saw the news and called him back to stay where he was. Her other son was also locked down in the dorm. She was thanking God that day because her son was supposed to be in the Norris Hall one hour later for one of his classes and had, on a whim, gone to the library to pick up a book and was locked down. She shudders to think of what otherwise could've happened. That is like making a trip to the gates of hell and back and then having heaven restored to you. And the saddest of it all was that when the paramedics were taking the victims out of the Hall, their cellphones were ringing and each of them had "Mom" or "Dad" on it calling to confirm they were safe. Some parents broke down saying that they had plans of coming for the graduation ceremony to see their daughter or son "walk the walk" and instead made the trip to get their lifeless bodies. It was a revelation and shows how much we all take for granted some of the things in our lives. Lets make sure that we spend more time with our loved ones, tell them how much we love them, hug them once more, hear them say our names once more, do everything with them once more. For time spent like this is never a waste and you will not regret it for lifetimes to come!