How you make sense of a tragic situation can say a lot about who you are as a person. I’m saying…in terms of perseverance. I deeply, deeply admire perseverance, as a human trait.
And, too, optimism and gratitude are two qualities that I do my best to practice on a daily basis. Especially amidst tragic situations. Tragic doesn’t have to mean something life-threatening, but it can. And one of the most grueling, life-threaetening, tragic situations I’ve ever been “near” … is April 16th, 2007. Last year I wrote at length, on that day, about my emotions and feelings toward 4/16/07, so I won’t belabor the point. You can check out that blog post here. Nonetheless, every year, there are different memories and feelings that I associate with that day – some positive and some negative. This year, two of the biggest feelings are optimism and gratitude.
My friend Kerry M. recently posted on her Facebook, asking the question, “when do we stop posting sad, tragic, negative memories of that day and what that day’s events may have meant to us or how they affected us?” It’s been almost 10 years since then. No, time doesn’t heal all wounds. But how might it affect our memories? Especially if we didn’t lose a loved one directly. That resonated with me, because I had similar feelings, and its a question that many who is a part of our community has asked since April 17th, 2007: how do we honor the memory of those people and make sure that we remember them, in a positive light, without having to call back upon the devastation of that day?
2 years ago, I established a goal to finally participate in and complete the “Run in Remembrance” that is held in Blacksburg, Virginia every year in honor of the 32 Hokies that passed away on that day. It was one of the greatest days of my life as a Virginia Tech graduate student. This weekend, I’ll be able to establish another great memory. This time as an alum in D.C.
My good friend Kristina A. is an amazing woman. She’s friendly, compassionate, caring, and has the best blue eyes you’ve ever seen. :) She also happens to be a survivor of 4/16, having been shot in Norris Hall. I didn’t know Kristina until many years after the tragedy, but we clicked almost instantly. Thanks to a mutual friend, Michael R., it was suggested to both of us that we intentionally make our paths cross. I had just relocated to Washington, D.C., and Kristina was at a crossroads herself as the Koshka Foundation was beginning to get off the ground. We met up for coffee near my office, and the rest is history. I’ve cherished that connection with Kristina over the past 2 or so years because of how similar our goals in life are; goals like helping others and helping people realize a brighter, safer and more compassionate future.
Like the tag line of the Koshka Foundation, which Kristina founded, says: “Safe Schools. Safe Future.”
I admire and respect Kristina, if not just for her numerous endearing personal qualities and the reasons she is a close friend, but also for the way that she has made sense of a very, very tragic situation. I think it says a lot about who she is. Someone who not only won’t let a situation like 4/16 get them down, but someone who vows to make the world better because of their experience. You can learn more about the Koshka Foundation here.
To wrap up, I also just wanted to share with you all a partnership between the Koshka Foundation and HESONWHEELS. I’m so very thankful that the stars lined up for this one! I’ll be working with them this weekend to emcee the RUN 3.2 FOR 32 Koshka Foundation 5k that is being held in the D.C. area this weekend! 4/16 falls on a Saturday this year, and the event will be held in Alexandria, Virginia. Click here for more information and to sign up/register. As of this posting, there are still a few spots left if you’re interested in signing up! You can run, walk, or even if that’s not your thing feel free to lend a hand and volunteer!
No matter what you do, I encourage you (especially if you are a Hokie) to take a moment and think of the 32 Hokies who lost their lives that day. Think of their families. Think of the Hokies who were injured. Think of the first responders. Think of the Hokies who still decided to become a member of the family (community), even given the tragedy. Think of the people who still make that same drive to campus everyday for their jobs and sometimes experience flashbacks. Think of the friends who lost their friends on that day. Think of the families who never had their child come from spring semester. There are so many ways to be aware and mindful of the beautiful lives lost on that day. And even if you just take a moment to do it here, thinking, inside your own self, you’re doing something right. You’re allowing yourself to live for the 32.