The Virginia Tech Massacreby JC, MD | April 20, 2007
I’ve been pondering exactly how to post about what happened this week at the campus of Virginia Tech. I’ve got so many emotions about the killings of so many innocent people. I’m deeply saddened by all of it. At times, I’m a little numb because death is really something that is a daily part of a physician’s life. I’ve also just felt angry at society for allowing this to happen. At other times, I’m just angry with the killer.
The news has been going nonstop about this event. Who is to blame? Mr. Cho? His parents? His friends? The Virginia Tech community? No one?
I personally grew up in a family where it was taught that someone or something was always to blame for any mistake or tragedy. In our household, things just couldn’t happen for no reason. Someone always had to have done something wrong or forgotten something or have been neglectful. Yet the older I become and the more mortality and morbidity I see in my career, the more I know that things just happen without any rhyme or reason. The person who gets hit by a driver who did not see him did nothing to deserve it. The person who becomes paralyzed when a tree branch falls on his neck did nothing wrong.
Mental health is really at the heart of the Virginia Tech Massacre. Could this have been prevented if friends and family reached out to this disturbed individual sooner? Could this have been prevented if the people around him were more inquisitive and caring? Could this have been prevented if there was less violence in the popular media?
I’m not going to come down in favor of one side or another. But what I will say is that we are all part of a community. When one of us goes down, it inevitably affects us and we cannot deny that we are all interconnected. We go through life so focused on ourselves and providing for our own needs. We don’t intend to push others down, but if given the choice we would rather see ourselves rise than fall. In this environment, people slip through the cracks.
How many people have you known that slipped through the cracks? How many people do you know could be the next crazy killer?
If I look back in my own past to individuals that I thought were disturbed, troubling, or mentally unstable, I wonder where they are now. At every stage from childhood to college, I do recall people that I didn’t know well that were “outsiders”. Most of them slipped through the cracks socially and in school and athletics. Each one of them could have turned out successful and healthy. Or perhaps they could have turned out to be very dangerous people. It’s too bad that I was so self-consumed with my life that I didn’t take time to notice them or reach out a hand.
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