What is to be done so far as the families of those who died at last April’s Virginia Tech massacre. From the Washington Post–
RICHMOND, Dec. 19 — Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said Wednesday that it is unlikely that the state will create a fund to compensate the families of those killed in the Virginia Tech massacre, but that officials are still seeking ways to address the victims’ needs.
Speaking to reporters, Kaine (D) said he would prefer that Virginia consider a possible settlement with the injured or the families of those killed on a case-by-case basis.
“Different families are in different places in terms of what they think is appropriate, so it is too early to talk about where it may go,” Kaine said.
Kaine said Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his staff have begun “preliminary discussions” with some of the families who have announced that they are considering suing the state for negligence.
McDonnell declined to comment. State officials familiar with the talks emphasized Wednesday night that the talks are designed to create a framework that will allow more in-depth discussions later. The officials said they are hopeful they can head off lawsuits by developing an open dialogue with the victims and their families.
Some legislators question whether the creation of a fund could set a bad precedent. Kaine did not include money for such a fund in the 2008-2010 budget he unveiled Monday.
Kaine said he would prefer that the General Assembly stay away from the idea of a fund unless the attorney general’s office says otherwise.
“Rather than try to do things piecemeal, I think it would be best to let the discussions take place,” Kaine said.
Gov. Kaine, who I been critical of when the investigation of the shootings was being done, is correct when he says the families are in different places. Grieving a loved one is never the same for two individuals. I therefore ask people not to judge how the families are handling what has happened to them but rather pray for them.
Even for myself, who has lost a child, I can’t fathom the degree of suffering these families are feeling now. Their sons or daughters died a violent horrible death. Right now its the holidays, and the first one these families have had without their children.
As to suing to gain compensation for their loved ones, I can understand it. They’re in pain and are angry. The pain will never go away, the anger will subside but not totally disappear. Trust me, I’m still angry at the Diocese of Palm Beach and the former pastor of my church. That’s five years after my son Daniel died. How nice of them to send a diocesan employee one December 2002 day to tell my wife(another diocesan employee) at the hospital that her pay was ending as was her insurance, plus there being no guarantee she would still have her job at the end of her medical leave. This after the pastor PROMISED otherwise a little over a month earlier. Remember if the Catholic church has the choice between protecting human lives, or money, they’ll take the later. The then Bishop of Palm Beach is now a Cardinal too.
However I’ve never threatened to sue anything or even consulted an attorney over any of this. The Diocese and Pastor backtracked after two parishoners agreed to do a fundraiser for my wife. That didn’t mean unneeded stress wasn’t created for a mother and her unborn child.
Back to the VA Tech families. They will be both blaming others and even themselves for a long period of time, if not for their rest of their lives. A verdict in court isn’t going to change this and most probably don’t realize that. You win a judgment, so what do you do. Spend the money on yourself, then you see what you bought and say to yourself. “God this won’t back my daughter.” Or you set a scholarship fund or something else in their memory. What is it? Something in your child’s memory. Again neither is going to make these people whole again. The death of a child tears away a piece of a parent’s soul that can’t ever be replaced. Because of their grief, families are unlikely to see that any legal win most likely won’t change the way they feel.
Maybe a lesson can be learned from one of those who died, Mary Karen Read. This from a Washington Post article written after Mary Karen’s funeral.
At the service, her father, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, told the mourners that he never intended to give a eulogy, hoping it would be more a celebration of her life. But he ended up pulling out a little red notebook taken from Mary’s room he’d found only yesterday morning. In it were Mary’s handwritten notes on forgiveness, dated Feb. 4.
“When a deep injury is done us, we will never recover until we forgive,” he read from the notebook. “That was Mary’s message,” he said. “I just wanted to share it with all of you.”
The Reads are trying hard to use this and other messages left by their daughter as they cope with the pain they suffer today. There’s another article about this family.
“When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive,” Mary had written in a little red notebook discovered by her family in her dorm room at Virginia Tech the day after she was killed in her mid-morning French class in Norris Hall on April 16.
While forgiveness is probably not one of the first words that come to mind in the wake of the events that ended her life and the lives of 32 others, including the killer, it was what the college freshman believed.
Finding her hand-written quotes on forgiveness was not an eerie coincidence, but rather meaningful and providential, according to Peter and Cathy Read, Mary’s father and step-mother, who are parishioners of St. Mary of Sorrows in Fairfax. In fact, the quotes have brought healing to the family and many others present at Mary’s funeral, where Peter read them publicly. As wounds were still fresh and feelings of anger inevitably rising, Peter Read knew he had to share his daughter’s message with others.
The notebook was first discovered while Cathy collected Mary’s belongings from her dorm room the day after her murder. Filled with anguish and sorrow, she opened the first page of a small red notebook and found the names of Mary’s friends and their birthdays. She placed it alongside photo albums, picture frames and some other things in one of the milk crates she gave Mary before she went off to college.
It was not until the morning of Mary’s funeral one week later on April 24 that the contents of the notebook were discovered with the help of Mary’s younger brother, Brendan. Waving the notebook in the air, the 2-year-old announced his new possession, then dropped it on the floor and ran off. His timing was impeccable.
Seeing the notebook for the first time, Peter reached down to pick it up and began reading. He discovered that for three years Mary had been collecting quotes on various subjects of interest typical for a teenage girl including boys, love and friendships. The last 10 quotes she wrote, however, caught her father’s attention. Dated Feb. 4, 2007 about two months before her life would be taken, Mary wrote about the profound importance of forgiveness.
“Forgiveness means letting go of the past.”
“Forgiving is not forgetting. It’s letting go of the hurt.”
“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.”
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future,” were among some of her last entries.
“I just read them a couple of times and I realized this was something we needed to share,” said Peter, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel. Although the family had initially decided not to have a eulogy, he felt compelled to share his daughter’s message at the funeral. “I knew it touched people by their reaction, but I didn’t know how deeply and widely … they needed to hear that message from Mary,” he said.
I highly recommend reading both of the above articles in their entirety. My wife and I were touched by Mary Karen’s story, so we got the Reads a mass card and mailed it to them in Virginia. At the time of the VA Tech tragedy, I was writing a webfiction story with a forgiveness theme. I incorporated some of the Read’s story into what I was writing and then co-dedicated the story to the Reads.
Forgiveness, which requires a great deal of strength, would be the best course for all the families. I don’t know if I was in their shoes if I could be that merciful and you wouldn’t either.
Probably the bottom line of all that I wrote and excerpted above is- Show mercy and forgiveness towards these families even if you disagree with them today. The VA Tech families are hurt and in need of our prayers. God bless them all.