I don’t often weigh in on national news. That isn’t really the focus of this blog. But today, national news went local.

I live just south of Denver, in the city of Englewood. My home is about 20 minutes from Aurora, the scene of a gruesome mass-killing which took place last night at a midnight showing of the newest Batman movie. We’re also about 15 minutes from my parent’s house in Littleton, which sits just a mile or two down the road from Columbine.

It’s a strange thing to position yourself in between tragedies, as though somehow your proximity gives you a greater amount of insight into the meaning (if there even is such a thing) behind the massacre. Neither of the two events affected me in any immediate sense. I mean, I didn’t know anyone who was killed at Columbine. My little brother was in elementary school at the time, his school a few blocks away from the scene. I recall my mom calling me, frantic and panicking about the school being on lockdown, and she couldn’t get to Jake.

I guess we were affected a little.

I don’t know who was killed last night, or who is injured. My grandmother jokes that we’re related to half of Denver, with cousins in every corner of the city. There might be a relative in the list of the injured or dead — I suppose there’s a chance — but I hate the thought. I’m sure I would have received a phone call by now.

This idea that proximity engenders relevance is confusing. So much of my waking time is spent pushing ideas through various internet channels of communication, connecting to people in other cities, other states, other countries. So much of what happens, or is communicated through the internet, comes to feel simply like information, consumed without much mindfulness.

And then something happens nearby, something so visceral and bodily, and I feel disoriented.

Columbine became a symbol. The word, our state flower, turned into a list of villains and victims. The memorials of the dead were erected near high school football fields, and license plates were imprinted with the words “Never Forget.”

Coloradans are certainly remembering today.

I don’t know if Aurora will become a symbol in the same way that Columbine did. Perhaps it will come to represent something about violence in entertainment, or the lack of security in public places. Perhaps this will be the moment where fear takes center stage, and we become distrustful of one another. Once they release the information about the assailant, perhaps people will seek to understand what it was about his family, his home-life, his schooling, his socioeconomic condition, his politics, his gender, which led him to make this choice. We will apply our arm-chair-sociologist perspective on the matter, and locate — pridefully — the reason he did it.

Not that the reason will make it any easier to understand.

As a religious person, one who is often engaged in conversations about what good a personal religion can do for one’s life, I feel inclined to do something religious in response to this. I’m not certain what good it will do for anyone other than myself, but I still feel the need.

Perhaps I’ll pray for the victims, or for the shooter, or for his family. After all, they’re out there in the city somewhere, trying to make sense of what just happened.

Prayer feels like an appropriate response somehow.

I’d like to open up the space for all of you who may not share my proximity to these tragedies to offer up the prayers that seem most appropriate to you. The prayers may be directed to specific deities, or they may simply be words of peace that you’d like to offer up to anyone who reads them. You may begin your prayer with “I pray to…,” or “I pray that…,” or you can use another form, if you like.

But please join me in taking a moment to respond softly, and kindly, and with a sincere heart, in prayer.

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  • It saddens me that our mainstream society has gotten so very out of whack that things like this happen.

    Suggestion : If this crime is linked in any way to one of our religions, picketing the courthouse in the name of our Gods and against the crime and seeking justice would help our position in the world.

    • Thank you for your comment, Ken.

      If you have any prayers the you’d like to offer up, I would love to read them.


  • Sunweaver

    I’ve just heard about this and my mother’s heart goes out to the children, especially. I hope the shooter finds peace. What a horrible thing to happen.

    • Indeed. It makes the heart heavy.

      Have you been inclined at all to pray, Sunweaver? Is that a part of your practice?

      • Sunweaver

        It is and I’m not sure I have the right words for a prayer, as such, but I feel that the gods know my heart even when all I can offer is a moment of quiet compassion.

  • WitchDoctorJoe

    I prey for the families of the victims. I pray that they recive the strength to endure the greif of thier loss, the strength to carry on and the strength to someday heal. Lord & Lady, Lance & Grail, through your Divine Union, I Involk & Hail, the Dryghtyn. Blessed Be.

    • Thank you, WD Joe. I appreciate your contribution.

  • I pray for the victims, that their souls may be at peace.
    I pray for the families of the victims, that they may move through their grief without seeking vengeance.
    I pray for those who were injured, that their recovery may be swift.
    I pray for the witnesses, that they may support one another and find strength.
    I pray for the family of the killer, that they may find peace in their hearts.
    I pray for the killer, that they may fully feel the loss they have inflicted and grief at their own actions; that they may take full responsibility for themselves and their actions; that they may find healing for the deep wounds in their own soul; that they may find transformation, and be moved to a life of service.

  • Manannan mac Lir, guide those souls to the islands of the Ancestors;
    Dian Cecht, heal the wounds of those that hurt;
    Brigid, heal the hearts of those that grieve;
    May the wisdom of the Ancestors guide the steps of our leaders;
    May the peace of the Nature Spirits descend on Aurora;
    May the power of the Shining Ones bless those in Colorado and all affected by this tragedy.

  • Patrick

    I offered my prayers as soon as I heard. Now I will offer my opinion and I have no doubt that some will find me offensive because I have done so. The world is ill, we have infected it with disease. It
    seems to me as if those most sensitive to “the flow”, “the
    force”, the energy that envelops and flows through all living creatures,
    or however one chooses to identify it, are holding their collective
    breath…tensely waiting. More and more I find myself pacing nervously
    without intent, watching the sky, watching the behavior of the animals who
    share my life, watching the “wild” ones and listening to the voice of
    the wind, but I find no answers and am unsettled. My daily prayers are
    for peace but I no longer feel reassured that peace is possible with the way we
    have come to live. The atrocity committed by a young man this day in
    Aurora, CO is another “sign” of a disease that is killing us
    all. In the language of emergency medicine, a “sign” is
    something that can be observed, it is objective whereas a “symptom”
    is subjective and is usually described as a feeling by the one afflicted. I believe there are many of us who are
    symptomatic and now there are many beginning to show signs. Aurora is sign, Syria is a sign, the Sudan
    and Darfur are signs, the dwindling snow on Mt. Kilimanjaro is a sign…they are
    everywhere. Somehow we must find a way to
    start fighting the disease before its signs do more damage. Treating signs does not heal, it only makes
    the patient more comfortable with the disease, and potentially helps prevent secondary
    infections but it does not destroy the disease it simply masks the signs of it. Many will want to point the finger of
    accusation at the economy, at politics, at poor education, at organized
    religion, at anything but themselves. This disease is a human disease, a plague
    that we have inflicted upon ourselves, the other species on this planet, and on
    the Earth herself. I have no answers,
    nor do I have questions but one…how do I make a difference? If we all answer that single question for
    ourselves, stop blaming others, and then take action, maybe we’ll have a
    chance. Rachel Carson was right…“The
    human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery, not
    over nature but of ourselves.”

    • Hello Patrick,

      I appreciate that you are a part of this dialogue, and I respect your right to an opinion about the shooting in Aurora. I’m not taking issue with your perspective, or suggesting that it doesn’t belong in a conversation about the tragedy.

      However, what this thread was intended to do was create a place to offer up, publicly, the prayers which we have made or are making. This post, and the subsequent dialogue, was not designed to initiate or host a debate on the shooting and its cultural ramifications. I assure you that there are plenty of other blogs which will focus on those topics, and I encourage you to participate in those discussion if you feel inclined to do so. But here, I’d like to avoid us drifting in to that conversation.

      With all of that said, if you have any words the you’d like to offer up – perhaps sharing with everyone what prayers you made earlier today – I think what would be a valuable contribution to this thread. I’d like for this thread to be a reflection of whatever religious responses we might have to this tragedy.

      Thank you for your understanding.


      • Patrick

        Teo…I sent an email to your contact page almost immediately after posting this and requesting, at your discretion, to remove my comments. I apologized for posting them because I realized they were inappropriate to the thread you’d posted…I let my own sadness, frustration, pain and anger cloud my judgement and I did not do as I usually do which is let a response “cool” before posting. If I had, I never would have posted it. Again, all I can do is apologize for my outburst…it was not intended to diminish, in any way, the prayers offered. I have family in Aurora, and while they are safe, others were not and I cannot explain how deeply I grieve for them and those they lost.

        In the future I will refrain from posting…I am truly sorry.

        • Please don’t refrain from posting, Patrick. I appreciate your feedback and insights, and I understand what motivated your comment. This situation inspires a great deal of emotions.

          I’m happy to take the comments down, if that’s what you’d prefer.

          • Patrick

            I wrote this prayer/plea the afternoon of September 11, 2001…I’ve used it a few times since and it was the one I turned to this morning…the only thing I chance is the name of the place:

            Ancestors and Kindred, please hear my plea and meet those
            who were so violently sent to you in Aurora today, with warmth, acceptance, and
            succor for their pain. Please help guide them to understanding and peace. And touch those left living with physical
            injuries so that their minds will rest, their heartbeats calm, and their wounds
            heal. Speak to their souls that they
            remember they are not alone and that fear will fade with faith. And touch those as well who will suffer
            delayed pain and mental anguish, those who responded to offer their own talents
            and gifts to ease the pain of those suffering…help them and shield them from
            harm as they help others.

            Gods and Spirits of the Land, Sea, and Sky please ease the
            pain and suffering of those who had loved ones taken from them so suddenly this
            day in Aurora in any way that you can.
            Send warmth to ease the chill of mortal death come so close, send
            breezes to dry tears of sorrow, send plants and flowers to ease physical pain
            and anguish, and guide healing energy up the river of sorrow that will flow
            from each soul that lost someone to the wound in their hearts that it might
            heal as time passes. And touch those
            left living with physical injuries that they may heal more surely, more quickly
            and more completely because of your healing energies. Please share your healing with those who
            responded to death and chaos without hesitation and without thought to
            themselves because they will suffer eventually from a delayed response and at
            times will feel as if they are alone.
            Send them the strength of the Sea, the steadiness of the Land, and the clear
            sight of cloudless Sky that they may heal and continue to help others.

            Animals and Animal Spirits, wild and tame, reach out to
            those who have suffered most this day and ease their pain as best you can. Lick a hand clenched in pain, curl in the lap
            of a sufferer and purr, lay at the feet of a silently sobbing friend and lend
            warmth and healing energy, sing a song of mourning and hope to share the pain. Make yourselves known in any way possible
            that those left alive but touched by despair may understand they are not alone,
            that man and animal are of the same Mother and grieve equally one for the

            These are my pleas and my prayers…so may it be.

          • Teo, do you mind if I share this elsewhere? With a link back here? It’s wonderful.

            Edit: your prayer is what I am referring to.

          • Karen,

            If Patrick doesn’t mind you sharing his prayer, it is fine with me. Thank you for sharing the work!

  • Anne Newkirk Niven

    First, the obvious: I am praying for the victims, their families, and all those directly touched by this tragedy. (Please don’t forget the first responders: police, fire fighters, EMTs, nurses, doctors, etc who have to deal with this sort of trauma every day.)

    Second, the not-so-obvious: Teo, you say that the idea that proximity = relevance is confusing. But we react in direct relationship to our proximity to an incident like this because that is a basic survival mechanism. Our brains are hard-wired to react to bad news as if it were an immediate threat. The closer we perceive we are to the threat, the higher the emotional connection. Think about how we lived as we were evolving: in small groups, surrounded by predators bigger and meaner than we were. *Hungry* predators, with whom we competed for game. Communication was strictly limited to the distance a message could be carried by a human on foot; thus, if you heard that someone was eaten by a lion, the chances were good that you were personally within the hunting range of said lion. Good reason to be alert!

    Nowadays, we’ve become (somewhat) inured to the constant barrage of tragic news; the adage “if it bleeds, it leads” has gone global. Today, the average person is just as likely to hear about a spectacular mass casualty incident (like this one) that happens in another country as one that occurs within walking distance. Those of us who follow the news closely gradually develop a tool to keep from being completely overwhelmed: we operate a bit of mind-magick (or cognitive behavior therapy) when we hear about such an incident by mentally calculating our distance from the event. Did we ever visit the town in question? Is it possible we know someone affected? Is the perpetrator at large, and in our vicinity? How much “like us” are the victims? Such tactics help us to calm our inner sense of panic, and distance ourselves from the distressing and overwhelming stimuli.

    Soon after we experience the first rush of adrenaline, however, a secondary set of emotions comes into play: analysis (often, a rush to blame) and, hopefully, compassion. The urge to reach out to a higher power (in this culture we mostly name that “prayer”) extends our sense of kinship with the community as well as helps us to cope with our sense of despair, estrangement, and isolation.

    After all, back on the African savannah where we all come from, how did we relatively puny homo sapiens survive? One word: community. Against the lions and the jackals and hyenas, we stuck together. This primitive instinct is still part of our emotional toolkit, and it’s a darn good thing, too. It’s pretty much this impulse to connect, to communicate, and to pray (by whatever name) that still keeps us alive today, even when the “predators” we are likely to encounter are members of our own species.

    A personal note:

    My family (me, my husband Alan and our three sons) witnessed a “mass casualty” incident when we first moved to Oregon about four years ago. (Except that only one person died, so it wasn’t very “massive.”) A young man, high on Goddess-knows-what (investigators later concluded he was trying to concoct a synthetic psychedelic in his basement), stopped his car in the middle of an intersection, pulled out a pistol, and started firing. We were sitting in a coffee house next to a wall of plate glass windows not more than 10 yards away. As the man started firing, a car drove between us and the gunman, and the car was sprayed with bullets. The driver took a bullet to the head, the car pulled over, and he died a few minutes later. Meanwhile, the shooter jumped back in his car, raced away, and was pursued by police (and died in the resulting shoot out.)

    At first, we assumed “drive by” gang shooting (a way of distancing ourselves from the victim) but later it came out that was a completely random event. The shooter and the victim had never even met. Furthermore, as we tried to make sense of what had happened, we gradually came to realize that the trajectory of the bullets that hit the passing car would have taken them right through the window into the exact spot where we were sitting. Thus, Fate/Chance or Whatever put the car at that place at that time, likely saved our lives — at the expense of the driver of the car. I am *not* tempted to say that “Goddess saved us” for the simple reason that I *can’t* go there, as the assumption that “Goddess has favorites” is morally repugnant to me.

    From this perspective, I can say only one thing: if you are praying for the victims (and trust me, everyone who was present last night is, in some sense, a victim) pray for them to experience calm, clarity, and a connection to those they love (and their Higher Power if that’s their philosophy.) From my perspective, only the balm of compassion, kindness, and connection is useful right now.

    • Thank you, Anne. I appreciate your insights about proximity, and your willingness to share this personal story here. My heart goes out to you and your family – that must have been an earth-shaking experience.

      I really appreciate that last sentence — “…only the balm of compassion, kindness and connection is useful right now.” I couldn’t agree more. I’ve found it rather challenging to see so many responses which encourage a violent response to violence. It’s troubling.

      Again, thank you for your thoughtful response.

  • I offer prayers to all those affected by this tragedy. I have lit a candle on my altar and send Reiki to all involved who may wish to receive it for the Highest Good. May the healing light surround them. So mote it be.

  • saywhaaaa

    Instead of prayers you should be encouraging people to offer assistance, charity, donations, medical supplies…. things that will actually help those that were hurt by the situation rather than wishful thinking with the primary purpose of making yourself feel better without actually having to DO anything.

    • With respect, saywhaaaa, I believe that there is a purpose for prayer, and it can – indeed – lead people to act in the ways that you’ve mentioned here. I see the two as being connected, and there are many whose prayers inspire them to act.

      Since it appears, though, that prayer isn’t an activity that you support in your own personal practice, maybe you could share some of the ways in which you’ve felt moved to respond to this situation. Are there things you’ve done which directly offer assistance? Perhaps you might be able to share some words which encourage others to act in a spirit of giving?


      • Saywhaaaa, whereas I, personally, agree that prayer does nothing for any but the individual praying or those that believe in the action (I am an agnostic atheist, Teo), there is a much more polite way in which you could have phrased your admonition. Instead of just saying what you did, perhaps you could have posted a link to local charities or donation centers. Maybe set up an online charity yourself.

        I may not believe in a god or gods, and I may not think prayer does anything, but actions do say a lot and your actions have not exactly said a whole lot of goodwill. Now, if you did donate, then good. But don’t deride others for what they do or don’t do, because you don’t know if they are just praying or if they, too, are donating or are physically there, helping.

        Everyone on this blog has a belief in something -or not, in my case- but our differences are what ought to bring us together, not separate us. Morals, values, goodwill – these are not exclusive to one religion or any religion, they are what makes us human.

  • Melia

    Something I’ve seen on Facebook and though it was a good idea only with ONE change: “In light of the recent shooting tragedy in Colarado, I challenge all of us who are stunned, sickened, sorrowful or angry to do something POSITIVE today. A random act of kindness will not fix what happened last night, but only love can drive out evil. Be kind to one another and don’t let the forces of darkness win.”

    Do this every day! You never know when that one act of kindness can turn things around for someone.

    • Melia

      Zeus, I pray that you give succor to those hurting.
      Hekate, I pray that you give aid to those that are lost and confused
      Hestia, I pray that you bind us all into a closer community so that such tragedies can be avoided.
      Hermes, I pray that guide the newly passed to their beloved dead.
      Ancestors, guides and guardians, please give aid where I cannot and point me to where I can.
      So mote it be through Ma’at.

  • May the Goddess bless the families of the victims and help them to move past the pain.

  • I pray for all involved. I pray for Aurora, for Colorado, for our country…for the world. My heart is broken, along with the hearts of everyone who is touched by this. My daughter was at a midnight show of Batman here in Arizona. Even that brings it close to home. May we all continue to pray that the wounding of humanity is healed.

  • Janus Pater, God of Beginnings, to those who have lost loved

    May You provide the beginnings of
    healing, and, in time, new beginnings to help fill their emptiness.

    Tellus Mater, Mother Earth, to those whose loved ones have
    died and who are burdened by unimaginable losses:

    May You provide comfort in the
    embrace of your loving arms.

    Aesculapius, God of Healing, to those who are injured and to
    those who have been traumatized:

    May You be a healing presence in
    their lives for as long as it takes them to return to wholeness.

    Spes, Goddess of Hope, to those who are wounded,
    traumatized, and in despair:

    May You provide hope that they
    may rebuild, regroup, and renew their faith in humanity.

    Mars Olloudius, Protector of the People, to those who are
    involved in rescuing people and those caring for the injured in hospitals and

    May You sustain and uphold them
    through this time of tremendous loss and stress.

    Quirinus, God of the Community, to those in Colorado, whose
    community is in shock:

    May You help them live and learn
    and support one another; may joy, in time, return to their lives once again.

    Jupiter Stator, to the police, EMTs, disaster response
    coordinators, doctors, nurses, and all hospital and law enforcement workers who
    have labored long and difficult hours coming to the aid of the afflicted:

    May You strengthen and sustain
    them for service.

    Vesta Mater, Embodiment of the Hearth Flame, to all those affected
    by this tragedy:

    May You warm their hearts, minds
    and bodies, bring them back to Your center.

    Ancestors, Spirits and Gods, to each of us as we pray:

    May it be Your will to be
    propitious to us; may distance not deter us from generous giving and enduring

  • I originally wrote this prayer and working in 2007 when students at Virginia Tech were killed by a shooter. I pull out this prayer all too frequently it seems. Hermes! Hermes! Hermes! Listen, the people call to you!

    O, great Hermes Psychopompos, conveyor of souls,
    Many lost ones showed up on the threshold last night.
    Guide them gently to the shore of the River Styx and beyond.
    I offer this bag of coins for their passage.

    O, great Hermes Enodios, he who travels over the lands
    Many souls are wandering, unsure of the road they travel.
    Watch over their journey as they cross the last boundaries.
    I offer this grain for their last pilgrimage.

    O, scheming Hermes Dolios, charming trickster of the night,
    The souls in your care found death in violence unsuspecting.
    Help them escape from the pain of their last moments.
    I offer this honey to sweeten their memories.

    O, divine Hermes Diaktoros, translator between gods and men,
    Heavy are the hearts that mourn today’s loss.
    Whisper sweet words to cleanse their wounded hearts.
    I offer this wine to ease their pain.

    Hermes! Hermes! Hermes! Listen, this person calls to you!

    I pour out the wine in your honor.
    I pour out the oil in your honor.
    I pour out the milk and honey in your honor.

    Hermes! Hermes! Hermes!
    Do not let the lost souls wander forever in the wild darkness.
    Take them safely to rest in the Realms of the Dead.

  • I send my call to the phantom queen,

    Oh Morrigan,

    Crone of war, chooser of the slain

    Washer at the ford,

    Take the souls of the slain in your raven wings and wash clean their
    blood, fear and pain.

    Lead them to the isle of apples.

    Oh Lugh of the long arm,

    Defender of the people

    Bright king, Let your long arm spread over us,

    may your wisdom and justice guide us in the days to come.
    Dian Cecht,
    great healer of the gods,
    guide the doctors and nurses as they work desperately to save those who they can.
    Beautiful Brigit,
    flame of the hearth,
    Lend your healing warmth to the families of those involved.

    I ask these things of you shining ones as your true worshiper,
    Derek son of John, son of Victor.
    So be it!

  • I think I know exactly what you mean. The Luby’s massacre happened in my home town, about a 3 minute walk from where I lived. Though I knew who some of the folks were that were killed, I didn’t know them well. The mess in Waco was a 20 minute drive away. As an adult we moved to NJ and not long after watch the Twin Towers burn from our back yard, across the bay to NY. These things affect you.

    I pray for all the folks who’ve been affected by this tragedy. Those injured and killed, their friends and family. I pray for the sensitive folks who knew no one, but take things like this to their hearts. I also pray for the family of the shooter, as they deal with accepting what their loved one has done and the negativity they are sure to endure because of it.

    May they eventually find as much peace and healing as possible.

  • Arthur Turbyfill

    May the fires of creation be a beacon to the dead, guiding then across the waters of memory, to the gracioius resting place of the dead in the Summerlands,
    May those who were injured know healing, and swift restoration of health.
    May the families and friends of those touched by this horrible tragedy find respite from pain and fear, comfort for their grief, and have the sure and certain knowledge that they are not alone but carried in the hearts and minds of others at home and around the world.
    May wisdom, love, and compassion be our guides now and always, that evil and darkness should not have the victory in this grim moment.
    So mote it be!

  • zendodeb

    “Lack of security in public places” You are not advocating TSA-style security everywhere are you? Or maybe you are. Because that’s what it would take – metal detectors, and x-rays and pat-downs. At the movie theater. At the shopping mall. at the grocery store. Everywhere.

    Do you really think if you give up enough liberty, you can be made perfectly safe? “Your papers are not in order.”

    • Thank you for your comment, zendodeb.

      To clarify, that portion of the post was not advocating that we increase security. When I wrote, “Perhaps it will come to represent something about violence in entertainment, or the lack of security in public places,” I was merely speculating. I’m not advocating that it does. Personally, I don’t think those are the points we should be focussing on. I was simply anticipating a societal rush to those ideas.

      Sorry for the misunderstanding, and again – thank you for the comment.

    • Metal detector wouldn’t have made a difference, this dude went in with nothing. Paid for his ticket and sat down, left through a side door, proped it open, came BACK in with an arsenal. Perfectly planned if I do say so myself. I would have actually applauded this guy if he’d have massacred a church congregation but no he had to gun down a movie theather. For that, I curse him

  • Angela Kurkiewicz

    A prayer for all the people effected by this tragedy, be them victims, survivors, family of the casualties or the family of the assailant, prayers for the community and any who are touched locally or internationally. <3

  • May we know healing in this time of grief
    Frigga, please, let us know comfort

    May we judge in wisdom and see truth
    Odin, please, give us insight

    May we remember the names, for in remembrance these people live on
    Hyndla, please, help us to remember

    May we well mark their passage from this world
    Hel, please, receive them well

    May the victims know restJörð, please, give them rest

    May we know justice for the families and victims
    Tyr, please, bring us justice

    May we all be able to laugh again
    Loki, please, help us find joy

    May all those who feel this loss be given strength
    Sigyn, please, help us bear this venom

  • Odinn Allfather, hear me: Gather the slain to your hall, that they may find rest and succor.

    Mama Freya, hear my words: gather the wounded to your apron; feed their souls with joy and hope, that they might recover.

    Heimdall, ever-watchful, Guardian of the Gates, hear my pleas: Give the weary and wounded a beacon that they may find their way out of the darkness.

    Idunn, apple-giver, ever-youthful Lady of Life, hear me: let those slain find your orchard bright and beautiful as You.

  • Alduin, eater of worlds, feast not too greatly on the souls that have entered sovengarde this day. May they find peace and tranquility and not be ravaged by your voracious appetite.

  • I have spent most of my life in Southwest Virginia, and like many others in this area, my family is tied up in one way or another with Virginia Tech. My father worked there for nearly a decade before transferring to another college, my grandfather had a hand in setting up VT’s veterinary school, my grandmother lives in Blacksburg, my cousins’ family in the nearby Christiansburg. My aunt currently works at VT and called my mother that fateful April day, from under her desk in lockdown.

    “There’s a shooter next door. They won’t let us out of the building. What is the news saying?”

    I was lucky enough not to know any of the victims from the Virginia Tech shootings, but the fallout from that tragedy continues to reverberate throughout this part of the state (and anywhere else, I’m sure, where VT alums and families live). Something considered beautiful, precious, and safe was shattered unexpectedly. Even with the “answers” we finally got about the shooter, there never really are answers to the things that happened there. There never have been, and there never will be.

    If there’s one thing I’d like to extend to you, Teo, and to others in Aurora and the surrounding areas who have had their home violated, it’s a grim sort of comfort that can only come from having experienced this before. I know that you all suffered through Columbine – which I remember, dimly, as one of the first national news events to enter my consciousness at the young age of 9 – and I can only imagine what it’s like to see this happen again. The descent of the media circus, the thrust into the national spotlight, the constant chatter that spreads more gossip and rumors than it does real information. The endless barrage of questions that a million pundits, reporters, and politicians try to answer.

    I’m afraid that the answer is there is no answer. We may find out more of the Aurora shooter’s motives, but that doesn’t truly answer /why/. Why here? Why now? Why us? What was done to deserve this? Why does slaughter happen? Why do innocents die? Why do some humans, put under the right kinds of pressure, transform into people capable of mass murder? Why must this be part of human existence?

    It is. It is. It is.

    Our job now is to turn to each other in this midnight of the soul and link hands, one by one, and confront the darkness ourselves. We must find, through this pain and suffering and loss and betrayal, this utter violation of our safety and identity, a place that can never be violated. And if we cannot find it, then we turn to our neighbors and find it in themselves, through service, through healing, through the shared shedding of tears.

    The twelve dead have been returned to the Source. Their energies will slowly blend back into the universe – through organ donation – through burial or cremation – through the eventual returning to the earth. Their names will be remembered, their loss stamped on our consciousness. And we honor them by remembering that life is a tempest, a whirlwind, a hearth fire that warms and a forest fire that destroys. Life is precious beyond measure, individuals a sacred resource that can never be recouped. But even fragile and broken as life is, full of pain, of suffering, of the fear that comes from facing the unknown depths of cruelty and carnage, life still goes on. The circle, as a whole, remains unbroken. And just as we have found ourselves hurting, we will find our way to peace.