33 died. Only 32 remembered.

Today is the anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting, and folks here in Virginia and throughout the country are keeping the Virginia Tech community, along with the families of those killed, in their thoughts and prayers.  State flags are flying at half staff.  At my church preschool today, about a dozen people wore Virginia Tech shirts or pins. 

We remember the 32 victims of the shooting.

But 33 people died that day.  Victim number 33, of course, was the shooter, Seung Hui Cho.  Nonetheless, at memorial displays and commemorative bell ringings, the count will stop at 32.  In popular perception, there were 32 victims that day.

But it is not enough to say that 32 were victims of violence, for victim number 33 also died of a gunshot wound.  There are 33 families mourning the loss of loved ones today.  33 body bags were needed on the Blacksburg campus last April.  33 people died.

Ignoring Seung Hui Cho risks ignoring the root causes of the tragedy in the first place – poorly diagnosed and treated mental illness, and easy access to guns.  We make him into a monster, not a victim, and thus his death is not to be grieved but to be received with gratitude and relief.  When we ignore Seung Hui Cho, we ignore why 32 others died and we diminish their memory.

On this day let us remember in prayer all those who died, and ask God to bring comfort and hope to their families.

Let the bells ring.  33 times.

About Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.
This entry was posted in Faith & the Church, Society. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 33 died. Only 32 remembered.

  1. Nathan says:

    This is a really sensitive issue.
    I think why they only are considering only 32 victims is because of the families of the other victims. I can only imagine if they did recognize all 33 there would be considerable objections from families of the victims and not to mention bad press. Last thing they want to do is stir up anything with families who are grieving a loss. Then the focus would shift from the victims. If I remember correctly shortly afterward someone tried to put his name on a plaque or something and it was quickly destroyed.
    I am sure some may have forgiven Cho and to that I admire them. But most probably have not. I think true forgiveness is still the hardest challenge God gives us in life.

  2. Pastor Eric says:

    True forgiveness in human terms is indeed impossible. And healing does take time. For those of us who are “far removed” from this tragedy, it is easy to say “include all 33”, but if I were mourning the death of a family member from the Virginia Tech shootings, I have to admit…I would have something different to say.
    But I do agree…we can’t ignore or forget #33.
    Thank you for posting this.

  3. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this, I agree with what you said there were 33 people that died that day and I’m sure his family are in as much pain as anyone else… it breaks my heart that in every article I read it seems to say there is no reason to grieve for him but I can’t believe this myself

  4. JadedJabber says:

    Thank you so much for this. I really upsets me when peopled don’t remember the shooter(s) of these sorts of horrendous crimes. Amen.

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