Wednesday, April 18, 2007

fragility of life

One of the last things on your mind when you are at college at 19,20, or 21 years old, is dying. And even if you are morbid enough to think about death and dying, the last thing you expect is for some crazed and disturbed student to come into your classroom and blow you away! All yesterday, as I was watching the memorial services for the slaughtered at Virginia Tech, I thought back to my days as an undergraduate at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook, and tried to imagine myself at 19 or 20, walking to class and then sitting there listening to my French professor (I was a French major, and one of the classrooms attacked was a French class)

Do we need any more reminders of the fragility of life. Those kids will never live to graduate college. They don’t have the luxury that I have been given-- that is, the time to get my affairs in order before I leave this earth. And they haven’t been allowed to live the almost-52 years that I have. And how about that Engineering teacher who survived the Nazis only to live to be a hero; he died trying to save the lives of his students.

But what continues to haunt me is that there were so many signs that the shooter was troubled -- rejection of others, and self-imposed solitude. And now it is coming out that he may have been the target of bullies. Are we so self-absorbed that we don’t take the time to comfort someone around us who may be hurting? So much was this kid hurting that he eventually built a wall around himself and wouldn’t let anyone in. He was probably so used to distrusting everyone that he drove away anybody who tried to befriend him, as a former roommate tried to do. He was so afraid of rejection by women that he became a stalker!

Do we value privacy so much that a student writes obviously disturbed essays and plays, and we are afraid that if we report it, we are afraid of violation? I personally read a play that he wrote for one of his classes -- it was on the web. I was extremely disturbed by the content of the play. I don’t know what I would have done if I had been the course instructor. I know that I referred a student to the guidance counselor once because his English teacher showed me something he had written where he had talked about killing his mother. The guidance counselor referred him to the principal, who did nothing. And when I followed up with the principal to make sure something was being done for him -counseling, referral etc, the principal refused to tell me what, if anything, was being done. All she could say was “Don’t worry, Ms. Cohen, I have it on file that you referred him, so you are covered”. I found out later that nothing was done, and I feared for Jeffrey, even though my butt was covered. And that’s what is important to everyone -- cover your butt and don’t get involved in something that’s not your problem.

On other notes, the weather is starting to calm down. I have another open house this Saturday and hopefully that will make up for the one we had last Sunday during the storm. Now that I no longer file income tax, because Social Security is my only income, the benefit of owning my apartment is not relevant anymore. I am getting ready for the Ride for Life, and they tell me I have to raise $500. It’s really difficult for me to ask for donations when I am going to have to raises money all over again for the Walk to D’Feet for September 30. And Washington DC is coming and on May 9, we are going to have front row outside of the Today Show, and be interviewed by Al Roker. Starting next week and going into the first week of June, Duane Reade Drug stores will be selling paper feet with $1 donations to ALS, followed by a similar promotion at North Fork Bank/

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