Paul Jacob

Here in Virginia it's a bright, sunny, spring Sunday — for most of us. But for those with loved ones killed or wounded at Virginia Tech, today is just one more day in a long, hard "aftermath."

Life certainly isn't fair. On most matters, this is a fact for which most of us should be thankful.

This tragedy touches us all. We can all imagine the pain of rearing a child to the point of adulthood and struggling so hard to place that child in a rewarding and very safe environment. And then for that child to be gunned down, murdered in cold blood . . .

But we're merely imagining. Most of us have no frame of reference to truly appreciate the unfathomable but very real and crushing loss faced by 32 — no, 33 — sets of parents, spouses, siblings. And close friends.

Death often sneaks up on us. As did this explosion of terror. I got the smallest taste of this when I mentioned to my wife that it sure is a good thing our oldest daughter's boyfriend had recently left Virginia Tech, having graduated. She told me his younger brother was still a student there. And there was that moment, before she said his brother was okay.

In fact, on that fateful morning the brother had still been asleep in his dormitory — where and when the first shooting took place.

That little detail reminded me how quickly life can change. In the bat of an eye we can go from lucky, if that's what you want to call it, to unlucky. Or vice versa.

It also reminded me of my own college days. I slept through a lot of things, too. Like the first semester of my freshman year. Unfortunately, the incredible sadness in Virginia this week turns my usual jesting into a feeble attempt at humor.

So what do we do — we, the bystanders?

Maybe it's what we don't do. The media was quick to jump on the response to the shooting by the university's administration and police. As if college officials are supposed to be clairvoyant.

In the first hours and day after the atrocity, Virginia Tech students spoke about healing, and they expressed again and again what a welcoming campus environment they had at Tech, but the media (with all the subtlety of a trained seal working a jackhammer) again and again solicited any possible anger the students might express toward the university for failing to maintain some kind of perfect security utopia. Mere hours after these university officials witnessed first-hand the human carnage, with many bodies still yet to be identified, was not the proper time to begin their trial by mass media.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.