You’ve probably heard by now: at the school where I got my undergrad degree and where I’m currently in seminary, there was a shooting last Thursday. Jon Meis, the student security guard at Otto Miller Hall who tackled the shooter while he was reloading, likely lowered the number of people who would have lost their lives; still, we lost one brother: freshman Paul Lee. Two others, Sarah Williams and Thomas Fowler, were injured. Even with the lockdown drills that we all know too well (which are themselves traumatizing, at least to me), my school was rocked and is still reeling. Major props to assistant director of University Ministries Bob Zurinksy for stating outright during the prayer service the evening of the shooting that it may take some years or even a lifetime to heal. I’m mad that this culture expects us to move on so quickly from grief.
And yet, in a way, I’m putting this rush on myself. There has been a flurry of written and visual activity about the shooting. I’ve felt a sort of frantic, left-out feeling that, if I don’t get something posted within 36 hours of the incident, I’ll have missed my chance to say anything because everyone will have moved on. Those who appear to be lingering in sorrow are frowned at in this culture; grief becomes inconvenient too quickly. But the best advice I’ve heard in approaching grief is the exact opposite of what our culture tells us: “go slow.” This applies to writing about grief, too.
I don’t need the intensity of community the way it’s been in these aftermath days to continue forever; that would be unsustainable anyway. But I also don’t want this sense of being there for each other, of reaching out, of spontaneous hang-outs and frisbee games, singing and eating together on the lawn to dissipate either. I don’t want our sense of efforts at community to surge and then wane with the media coverage. I want us to actually build something in our grief that outlasts it. I want us “not to rush too quickly to hope,” as it’s been said at the prayer services, not just to avoid forcing inauthentic joy but also to drink a little deeper of what fellowship – even the “fellowship of Christ’s suffering” – actually means. I want us not to need evil to make and sustain good.
I also don’t need this anxiety about putting together something to say about SPU that will
be helpful or healing, like it seems “everyone” else is doing. Some beautiful things have come from the students on the campus, including this open letter to the gunman, and this piece by my professor a few days later. Maybe everything will be said by the time I’m able to reflect coherently or with any grace for myself or others. Maybe people will be tired of reading and hearing about it. And that’s okay, I’ve decided. This, for now, aside from thank you (this is the reflection I posted hours before tragedy struck last Thursday) to those who have been with and for me these past several days, is all I have as I attempt to process this jumbled, blind ball of grief pin-balling around inside me, which at this moment feels like that awful, anxious, face-flushed feeling you have right after you trip but before you hit the ground.