105 Ways to Give a Book

Virginia’s Tragedy

While I may disagree with most of Virginia politically, I love my state. I must. It would be far easier to cross the river and live in Maryland, which is more aligned with my politics, than to advocate for the statehood of Northern Virginia. But I can’t do it.

I love that our state history is our nation’s history. Jamestown. Williamsburg. Mount Vernon. It means that an entire year of my children’s lives will be spend on learning something useful. As a child, my husband learned about the significance of cow patties for heating and building in the great state of Nebraska. Or something like that.

I love that Virginia has seasons, and that the seasons lean warmer than the seasons in, say, Nebraska. We usually have a little bit of snow, but not a lot. April is usually short-sleeve weather, and the sweatshirts don’t come out until October. Pool season starts in May and ends in September, and I’m not talking about your teeth-chattering, “shrinkage”-inducing, cold-water pool season either.

I love that when you drive through Virginia, you see a lot of green. There are no billboards along state highways (except around Norfolk, and I’m not sure why), and for large stretches of the drive on I-95, it seems like there is nothing at all. Other than the weekend traffic (sometimes) and the slow drivers in the left lane (all too often), it’s a pretty pleasant drive across the state.

I love that Virginia has mountains and beaches, urban areas and farmland, battlefields and water parks. I love that my kids can get in-state tuition at a number of top-notch colleges. William and Mary. University of Virginia. Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech.

I don’t even know what to say. This school is so much a part of my vernacular. I’ve grown up and lived here tossing around that university name. I know kids who went there in the past. I know families who are looking at it for their college-bound students. I know people who graduated from there.

The shooter was from my Northern Virginia. His parents live in a town in the western suburbs. The towns being mentioned in the news are places I know. Centreville. Chantilly. They’re not meant to be towns with national attention.

It’s not Virginia’s tragedy. It’s a nation’s tragedy. I understand that. But like our nation’s history — starting in Jamestown just weeks shy of four hundred years ago — we’ll have to share.
Category: 14 comments


web said...

Not sure what to say, but I hear your pain.

Anonymous said...

Shortly after I heard about the shooting, I thought, "Mother Reader is from Virginia. I wonder what her thoughts are."

I already love your blog, but now I love it even more since I know your husband is from Nebraska. I'm from Nebraska! And now I know you've at least been there (I know it's not exactly Destination, U.S.A.!) I live in Arizona now, but Nebraska weather made me strong!

Emy said...

Yeah, we're in shock out here too. It hits a little closer to home for me, because a) I spent my freshman year at Radford, just up the road a bit, b) my brother and his wife live in Radford, and most importantly c) my boyfriend went to Tech.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your words. I went to Sweet Briar. I have classmates whose husbands went to Tech. I went to Tech one weekend with friends.

I live in Vermont (my home state) now, but this has struck me as much as if it had happened at UVM.

Jennifer Schultz said...

I'm from southeastern Louisiana, and I went to high school in New Orleans. I love Louisiana and I love my heritage. I went to LSU for my undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Like many LSU students, I headed west-to Texas. I ended up in Houston for almost two years and hated it.

From the second month I was there, I decided to return to southeastern Louisiana. I missed the culture, the community, the people, the food. I felt so out of place. All of my family were still there. I had never lived anywhere else but southeastern LA, and I missed it terribly. Yes, there were some things that I definitely didn't (and still don't) like, but the positives definitely outweighed the negatives. There was a new director at Jefferson Parish Public Library, and I heard that he was doing good things and making much needed changes to the system. The same old same old wasn't the same old, same old.

Then August 29th happened.

There's a popular local band called Benny Grunch and the Bunch. Their shtick is New Orleans comedy, parody, and nostalgia songs. If you're not from the area, you'll have absolutely no idea what they are singing about. They have a song called "Ain't Dere No More." It's about the local institutions that have gone by the wayside. After Katrina, they came out with another "Ain't Dere No More." Well, there's lots that ain't dere no more, and that includes library jobs. And I can't do much else but this.

When I was a child, I spent many vacations at Shenandoah, Williamsburg, and DC. My favorite vacations. My sister spent a semester at College Park (go Terps!) in an exchange program. I began to haunt the library job postings and applied to library systems throughout northern Virginia and the Maryland suburbs of DC. I researched the areas and became very interested in the prospects of moving to the area.

I landed in a more rural area than I thought I would be (but not too far away from civilization), but I love it here. I've met great people, landed in a great work environment, and visited some great places. Dated a few dorks, but those are everywhere.

While I will always, always love southeastern Louisiana (you want to see a state that is essentially two states, visit southeastern Louisiana and northern Louisiana), and I will always have a heartache for Louisiana, I have come to love Virginia and her people. I feel at home here and I've been so welcomed, which I didn't and wasn't in Houston. Which is a little weird, because this area is nothing like southeastern Louisiana. But for the first time, I'm not looking around for a better situation. I'm looking forward and planning a future here, instead of looking over my shoulder and wanting to change the past. I can't change the past, and although I might never get over that, I can get around that (if that doesn't sound too weird).

Like other northern Virginia communities, we have many families with kids and/or other families members and friends at Tech, many are alumni, etc. We don't know if any are from our county. I'd like to say that I hope we don't, but that means that someone else's community has to lose a young person. And that doesn't feel all that right.

And I love this area, and I love (most) of the people. I love the fact that I can go hiking in Shenandoah and tubing on the Rappahannock, or go catch a show in its pre-Broadway run or on its first national tour. I can make weekend trips or even day trips to Philadelphia and New York.

But I also love the people. People here have been genuinely welcoming and opening. Achievement, education, and interest in culture is not unknown.

Sure, there are some things about the state that I wish were different, but don't let me catch you talking smack about Virginia if you don't live here. I've got her back. Same thing for Louisiana (unless it's about northern Louisiana). And I once thought that I would never feel at home or want to stay in any place other than the New Orleans area. I do here, and the fact that this has happened in a state I have come to love almost as much as southeastern Louisiana pains me to the core. Virginians are mostly good people, friendly people, interesting people. They have given me reasons to not go on a search for other pastures.

Thank you, MR, for your lovely post and for allowing comments on this blog. This post may be embarrasingly blabby, but I'm going to hit the publish icon anyway.

Anonymous said...

Well said, MR. I have a friend who teaches at VT, and spent a good part of yesterday worrying about him until he answered his email.

I can't really say anything else about it. I'm just so sick and sorry and sad. It must be even worse when it's so close to home.

Anonymous said...

Your pain at this hour comes through. It is a loss for us all. Wrote about it at my personal blog:

MotherReader said...

Jennifer, you are welcome to blab in my comments when you need to do so. I know your constraints at your blog. I'm glad to see you've found a welcoming community. I also see good people here in this state. It's one of the reasons it surprises me so much that the politics aren't as open and embracing as the people that I meet.

Kate, I'm really glad that you love my blog...but I've never actually been to Nebraska myself. My husband lived there as an Air Force brat. He was in Virginia when I met him.

To all, thanks for the comments. I noticed that there weren't a lot of blog entries today around kid lit. I think it was hard to know how to write about it, and hard to just not write about it at all. Because, at the heart of it, what can one really say that isn't some variation of "I feel bad." But sometimes it helps a tiny bit to have a place to say it anyway.

Nancy said...

MotherReader, I'm so proud of you for finding the words to say what you have. I couldn't find the words yesterday at all.

Lady S. said...

Beautiful post - thanks, Mother Reader. I too thought almost immediately of you, and hoped at least that nobody you knew had been among the injured. Though of course that was only those injured in a physical sense.

My American half is from just across the river in Maryland, and that colonial history is something I grew up with too. Then I heard the mother of one of the U.C.D. (Dublin) students in Virginia Tech for a year's exchange say that her daughter had spoken so positively about her time there and that none of the Irish students is planning to come home early. It's a horrible truism, but the world really does feel smaller and more connected nowadays, and blogs are one way we come to feel involved in other lives around the world.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

You are so right, it is about all of us. It is just heartbreaking. So hard to know what to say. But you made a great post here. That Virginia is such a beautiful friendly place just makes it all the more shocking and important that we take notice and talk about it all the more.

I keep thinking, "There are too many guns in this world. Just too many."

The Library Lady said...

I too am a longtime resident of NoVa whose politics are more Marylandish. My in-laws and a close friend live in Centreville and I am hoping that my friend's daughter didn't know the local girls killed in the attack.

And I have a young staffer who is from Salem, VA and who is a Hokie. Her brother is a student there now (he's okay).

When she came in yesterday, I told her she was in one of the best places to be where people would understand what she was going through. After all, I live just down the road from the Pentagon. What we went through on Sept 11, she is going through now.

And she said " I was upset about Sept 11, but I really didn't get it. Now I do."

I am so, so SO angry at the waste of it all......

Daniel said...

A most eloquent post. I've been struggling, since Monday afternoon, with how to put my feelings into words on my own blog--but you've expressed them perfectly already.

Robin Brande said...

Well said, MR. So, so sorry.