Remembrance could be the solution to preventing tragedy

Theresa Bruskin

I have always had a difficult time coming to terms with tragedy, regardless of its proximity to myself.

I remember learning about the Holocaust in fourth grade, and in fifth grade, the sinking of the Titanic. I read everything I could find on both subjects, trying to wrap my 10-year-old brain around the idea that such horrible things could happen so suddenly to such undeserving people. I could not understand how so many lives could be lost and the world could just keep moving.

I still can’t.

A few days into my freshman year of high school, tragedy struck again. I had lived in North Jersey my whole life in an area where much of the population commuted to work in New York City, so the attacks on Sept. 11 hit very close to home — closer than any other tragedy I had read about. That day was, and remains, one of the most terrifying days of my life. School was eventually canceled and we were sent home shortly after noon.

Determined to prevail and discover the secret behind all the carnage, I collected every magazine and newspaper I could find. I still have them in my closet. But I found no answers, only nightmares of women in red dresses jumping to their deaths to escape the flames.

Then came the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the conflict in Darfur, the tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the shooting at the Amish school last year.

So many lost, and the world keeps turning.

Life moves on, but should it? Should we become so complacent that tragedies cause nothing more than a spike in CNN’s ratings?

Tragedy struck again Monday, on a college campus not unlike Kent State. And as thousands of families receive word that their children are safe, 32 families will be visited by the local police departments. One family will hear the unfathomable, that their son was responsible for the suffering of the 32.

In a few days, Americans will settle back into their complacency and forget about the lives that have been lost. When does the death toll become high enough for society to want to do something? Israel marked its Holocaust remembrance day Monday — 6 million people murdered, and Americans have all but forgotten.

I don’t know what society needs to do to stop people like the young man at Virginia Tech from committing such crimes (though I suspect it has something to do with the overwhelming amount of violence on television and the underwhelming acceptance society has for the mentally ill). I don’t think the answer lies in gun control, as lucrative a solution as that is, nor do I think it lies in tighter security or invasions of privacy.

I think the answer lies in remembering. We must never forget the lives that were taken in the concentration camps, Darfur, Columbine, New Orleans and Virginia Tech. In remembering, and never letting such events leave the public dialogue, we can start to prevent them from happening again.

Alessandra Stanley, a New York Times reporter, wrote Monday, “There must have been a time — maybe back in 1966 before live news coverage was common and Charles Whitman opened fire from a clock tower at the University of Texas in Austin and killed 16 people — when witnesses, officials and news announcers would find themselves at a loss for words.”

Hopefully, some day, such shootings will be a shock again and not just an all too common occurrence.

Theresa Bruskin is a sophomore newspaper journalism major and guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].