Tuesday, April 17, 2007


My heart is aching for all of those involved in the Virginia Tech massacre.

When I heard the news my immediate concern was for the students – those who died, those who were injured and those who were traumatized – and for their families. How awful. At the exact same time my heart instantly went out to those who are now working behind the scenes.

Especially that one person.

That one person who is ultimately going to be in charge of the logistics and fallout that will result from this catastrophe. That one person whose life is forever going to be changed and whose professional responsibilities and priorities have been violently shuffled and are now completely different than they were on Monday. That one person who has to immediately rise to the top of their game and lead hordes of people through a disastrous situation that they never in their wildest dreams thought they would be a part. That one person who is going to have to direct every detail of every team involved from communications to coordinating with law enforcement, unflinchingly answer the really hard questions, comfort the families, eventually deal with the families’ anger and its many manifestations, dissect the response effort, develop an immediate plan for future response efforts, deal with the relentless media onslaught that will pick and prod and accuse, quickly plan and execute a high-profile national public memorial service and later a permanent memorial, and handle the finger pointing and public outcry that will surely result from the actions of one crazy person.

In this case, I’m guessing that that one person will be the Virginia Tech President, and I have the deepest respect and a special empathy for him and for the teams of people who support him. Some careers are going to be made during this time and some careers are going to be broken. The strong will get stronger and the weak will wilt. All will be personally affected.

I know that person because that person was my dad when the Columbine High School shootings happened eight years ago, almost to the day.

As Jefferson County Manager, dad was at the hub of that disaster and had to manage every aspect of it from top to bottom. This was before 9/11 when things like this just didn’t happen. Or maybe it just seemed like disasters of this magnitude didn’t happen with the frequency they seem to do now. The stories I could tell about Columbine would take up weeks and weeks worth of blog space. I’m thankful that dad has written his memoirs on the subject because they provide a unique glimpse into an unexpected national tragedy.

So my hope is that all of us will take just a second to think of and bless everyone involved in the Virginia Tech massacre. They say there are 31 victims in this shooting rampage, but we all know that through the ripple effect there are hundreds and thousands of victims, all working hard to make sense of a completely senseless situation.

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