I've been saddened by the tragic events in Virginia, and as I looked around at my kids this morning, I thought of how beautiful they are...beautiful in that on-the-brink-of-adulthood-but-sometimes-still-a-child way of older teens. Being a part of an academic community is wonderful in so many ways. Most wonderful to me is the little tiny glimpses I get into the lives of the young people I teach. They can drive me crazy (oh, especially the ones who are so smart but don't believe it at all), but by the end of every semester, I've fallen a bit in love with my students. I can only imagine the heartache of the kids at VA Tech, of the staff, and of the faculty, and I wish I could ease it for them.
But those aches are all around, aren't they? During my office hours today, I had an e-mail from a dear friend and former co-worker to call her asap, which I did. The news she gave me has left me feeling ill; I feel like I did in the months after 9/11: stunned, ill, disbelieving, and a little afraid. Another co-worker of ours, MP, is missing. Her car was found, but she is gone, and it's presumed that her car went over a New Jersey bridge during Sunday's storm. I can't stop imagining the different scenarios that may have unfolded, but mostly I can't stop imagining how her teenaged daughter feels right now. MP was a tough lady, often difficult to work with, but she knew her stuff, and she cared deeply about her work. My favorite memory of her is playing over and over in my head: a few summers back, in the Hudson Valley, we had record-breaking heat. MP saw me in the hall at work and asked if I'd like to go for a walk.
"How often do you get to see what record breaking heat feels like?" she asked, luring me into the nearly unbearable temperature. We had a delightful walk that ended with each of us drinking a bottle of water and laughing about the silliness of what we'd done.
I've never forgotten, though, the curiousity MP had, and the willingness to take on something unpleasant just to experience life a little more richly.
Please send good thoughts to her family in New Jersey and around the nation. Her loss, like the loss of the victims in Virginia, is a great one for so many people, and my heart aches for them all.