All of the families I talked to want the truth to be told, and nearly all want some sort of apology from Virginia Tech or President Steger—or both. Many of the Virginia Tech victims and families of the victims are looking for some sort of accountability; they want someone to take responsibility and be held accountable for what happened on April 16, 2007.
What makes life so difficult for so many of the families and victims to move on is the knowledge that they have been lied to. Many at Virginia Tech were truly wonderful and caring, but many were not. Certainly Tech President Charles Steger showed an aloof indifference and Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum an incredible lack of remorse.
Imagine: Your loved one is dead. You are told to move on, and you know you must. But though the agony ebbs and flows, it never goes away; moving on is agonizingly slow. Just when you think you have made some progress toward recovery, there is a sound, a smell, a sight, and everything comes flooding back; the unbearable, suffocating pain. It is April 16, 2007 again, the black cloud engulfs you, the air is sucked out of you, you gasp; if you are driving you pull to the curb, put your head on the steering wheel and cry. You think of what should have been and what might have been. You think of the child or spouse you desperately miss. You think and you sob. You remember everything that once was. You have a sudden urge to run as fast as you can, anywhere; you want to run away from it all. You remember your child’s face, you remember your spouse’s smile; the sweet memories become unbearable; life itself becomes unbearable. You remember the joy and the good times, and your head throbs. And people tell you to move on.
You remember that a few months after the shooting, a Virginia Tech official told an audience that the families should not be allowed to wallow in the tragedy. You remember that the state of Virginia gave you $100,000 compensation for your loss while Tech President Steger is paid an annual salary is $748,892. Steger’s pay includes $479,842 in salary (including a $22,852 bonus), $245,000 from deferred compensation, and a $20,000 car allowance. This is the man who did not issue a warning that might have saved your loved one’s life. And people tell you to move on.
You try to find some meaning in your loss; you speak out against gun violence in the hope of preventing others from going through what you have gone through, and your car is sabotaged. You work for the Brady Campaign to help keep guns out of the hands of those who are dangerously mentally ill and you are subjected to the wrath of right-wing bloggers. You ask for details of your loved one’s death and you receive threats. And people tell you to move on.
You have to wonder if, when they say, “move on,” what they really mean is “shut up.”
In the final analysis, none of the families of those killed or wounded at Virginia Tech will never be able to truly “move on” until the truth is told and people such as President Charles Steger and Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum are held accountable. Only then will they be able to find some peace and, perhaps some semblance of a normal life. (To be continued)