When I heard the audio and I saw the images of the Virginia Tech campus yesterday, I burst into tears. My school, my campus, was under attack. I earned a BA from Virginia Tech in June 1984 and an MA in August 1986. I taught in the Virginia Tech English Department for two years as a graduate teaching assistant and for seven years after I earned my MA.
As the images streamed across my computer screen yesterday, I saw buildings that I have been in. I knew people I taught with were in buildings near Norris Hall, and, worse, that my family members were literally across the street from the classroom building and dorm where the attacks took place.
In his Voices from the Middle article “Difficult Days and Difficult Texts,” Bob Probst talks about the value of stories. “Stories,” he tells us, “will save us, if anything will” (50). Right now I am struggling to find the stories. More than anything, I want a story that will take this tragedy and make sense of it.
Writing of the events of September 11, but just as applicable to the shootings in Blacksburg, Virginia yesterday, Probst explains, “Part of the problem with understanding . . . was that we had an event, but didn’t yet have a story. All we had at that point was an image, a happening” (53). The world has an event right now.
No matter how old the students we may interact with this week are, our job as teachers is to help them find the stories:
- stories of their connections to people on the campus,
- stories of their own reflections on the events,
- stories of police and rescue workers who responded,
- stories of political reactions and implications,
- stories of the social networks supporting them,
- stories of the news media’s coverage,
- stories of their own outrage, sadness, and horror,
- stories of their fears and where they have found security,
- stories of how such a thing could happen, and
- stories of how we all can and must continue on.