all week long i've been struggling, trying to figure out what to say about the massacre at virginia tech. i've finally realized that for me, what it comes down to is another near-miss story, much like my september 11 experience.
one of my very best friends - we'll call her ernie - is a student at tech. this university and this friend are forever linked for me. from the moment she decided to go to blacksburg for undergrad, she has been as committed a hokie as one can ever hope to find. when i visited her there it took no time for me to realize why she loved the place so much - i've never met nicer people (including my first boyfriend) anywhere, and the campus is sprawling and majestic... the scale makes it feel, in spite of hurrying and harried students everywhere, like you've got all the time in the world to meander across the drill field and among the buildings. i remember a duck pond a notoriously naked friend of hers jumped in, bowling in the student center, drinking coffee in town, and toasting her 21st at local haunt sharky's.
after a hiatus in the real world, ernie recently returned to school at va tech, and it turns out she was supposed to be sitting down for a class on the second floor of norris hall when the rampage began. luck of luck, a professor she was visiting for something else asked her what the heck she was doing on campus, after knowing about the first two shootings, and said, "i wouldn't be here if i didn't have to be - you should go home." so she did... though skipping class is definitely not her style. and she is unharmed, well, physically anyway. her good friend and lab partner was not so lucky, though thankfully we have just learned this afternoon that she is alive, in serious condition in a hospital in roanoke after withstanding (a shot? shots?) to the abdomen. another friend arrived at norris just after the shooting began - got off the bus, saw students jumping from second-story windows, and turned right around and got back on that bus.
i am so profoundly grateful that ernie is alive and in one piece. she's headed home to annapolis as i type, and i'm taking the day off friday to spend with her, doing whatever she wants to do. i'm so lucky to have that opportunity.