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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Senior at V Tech: "My family didn't raise me to do what is popular"

Student Adds Memorial Stone for Gunman
Virginia Tech Senior Cites Moral Responsibility

BLACKSBURG, Va. (April 26) - A senior at Virginia Tech said moral responsibility led her to add a stone for gunman Seung-Hui Cho to a memorial for his 32 shooting victims that was set up at Virginia Tech late last week.

The stone was later removed, but was restored by Wednesday morning.

Katelynn Johnson, a senior sociology-psychology major, identified herself in a letter to the Collegiate Times as the person who added the stone for Cho.

"My family did not raise me to do what is popular," she wrote in her letter to the campus newspaper. "They raised me to do what is morally right. We did not lose only 32 students and faculty members that day; we lost 33 lives."

In her letter, Johnson said she feared a backlash from students and possibly faculty members who did not agree with having a stone for the killer included in the memorial. But she said feedback since the letter was published has been largely positive.

The student organization Hokies United put 32 "Hokie Stones" - of local limestone used in university buildings - in a semicircle in front of the administration building to honor the 27 students and five faculty members whom Cho killed April 16.

The 33rd stone was added at about 4 a.m. Thursday, Johnson said.

Cho's stone was gone by Monday morning, and was replaced by a small American flag. On Wednesday morning, there were 33 stones again.

This time, the 33rd was on the far left, unmarked, and slightly apart from the others. It was adorned with tributes similar to those on the other memorials: flowers, candles and beads in maroon and orange.

University spokesman Mark Owczarski said that the student organization did not place or remove the stone for Cho, and that it would not interfere.

"They decided they would allow the expression of grief to take whatever form it needed to," he said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.


Wayne said...

Do we not need to acknowledge the tragedy of Mr. Cho's life? Do we not need to pray for his soul? Do we not need to pray for God's mercy? I think this young woman did what is morally right, and I commend her for it.

taomikael said...

Ms. Elizabeth,

Thank you for posting this.

""My family did not raise me to do what is popular," she wrote in her letter to the campus newspaper. "They raised me to do what is morally right. We did not lose only 32 students and faculty members that day; we lost 33 lives."

That's it in a nutshell. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Jesus, hanging on the cross, ask for forgiveness for those who had crucified him?


Bill said...

In my mind, the thirty-third stone is appropriate. It’s what Our Lord would have done. If life has taught me one thing, it is that if something is hard to do, it’s probably the right thing to do. In 1984 Cho was somebody’s baby. Something went terribly wrong. Signs were given and signs were missed. What would lead a person to do this? I have no idea. But we do not exist in a vacuum. There are relationships. There are causes. There are reactions. All that we can do, is learn and hope. It is so easy to hate and so hard to forgive. But hate turns inward like a cancer while forgiveness heals and opens us up to God’s love.

just another piskie said...

Well done, Katelynn Johnson!

I was coming in to work the other day, and two of my coworkers were talking quietly as they waited for the elevator up. They saw me, and one asked, "Do you think we should pray for 32 or 33?" "33," I replied. "The killer may need the prayers even more than the victims." They nodded. That was what they thought as well.

Then we started talking about praying for the military. I said that at a service I'd been to recently, we prayed for soldiers all around the world, not just ours. Again, they nodded. I told them of a time during "Desert Storm" when I raised the question that if we prayed for our soldiers, shouldn't we pray for Iraqi soldiers? People at the church I was at at the time were shocked by the question. "Aren't we instructed to pray for our enemies? I guess they hadn't read the effing manual" I said, and my coworkers started to giggle. Then the workday started.