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We Cry These Tears Again

We cry these tears again, these Columbine High tears, these Virginia Tech tears; these tears of anguish and sorrow we cry again, this time for our brothers and sisters at Northern Illinois, where Steven Kazmierczak, a former student, opened fire in a lecture hall and killed five students and wounded eighteen others before taking his own life. We mourn for Gayle Dubowski, age 20; Catalina Garcia, age 20; Julianna Gehant, age 32; Ryanne Mace, age 19; and, Daniel Parmenter, age 20.

We cry again these tears for the mothers and fathers whose children will not be coming home for Spring Break; we cry again these tears for the brothers and sisters whose siblings were taken; we cry again for the friends and lovers, knowing that no words will console them. What can you say to someone who has lost a loved one in a senseless act of violence? We cry again, for the young lives lost: no walking across the stage to get a diploma, no interviews for first jobs, no strolling hand-and-hand on beaches, no engagements, no marriages, no watching their babies taking first steps. We cry again for those survivors who were injured, who carry in their minds sounds and sights that no one should have; we pray for them and their families that they, somehow, get that elusive peace that passes all understanding.

We also cry for the young men who have taken the lives of others in recent years -- young men who have turned classrooms into killing fields. They, too, are our brothers. They hurt and they hurt others, but when we say that every man is our brother we mean every man. This kinship is not based on shared wombs, common ancestors, similar skin, communal beliefs, or brotherly love. We are brothers because we spring from the same fountain -- and that water flows one way. Sometimes our brothers break our hearts. It is hard to understand why someone would walk into a room and randomly take the lives of others -- and it is hard to forgive them. Let us reach out, always, with love and vigilance, to all who are troubled, anguished, fighting personal demons.

We cry again these tears because that is what people do when they are sad, and we, this community, this state, this nation, are sad because we are lighting too many candles, too often. We are preaching too many eulogies about talented young people cut down by random, irrational violence. We cry these tears again, stinging tears, tears that speak to our broken hearts.

To our brothers and sisters who lost their lives at Northern Illinois, we cry for you and your families, as well we should, but even as we hurt we resolve to live every day as a blessing. We will be strong; we will live in hope, not fear. We will honor you by treating every life as sacred. We will lift others and not tear them down. We will learn as much as we can and use that knowledge to wisely help others. What is life, this mist, these few years given to us? It is living, learning, and loving. Reach out to our brothers and sisters at Northern Illinois.

The writer of Ecclesiastes (3:4) wrote, "There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance." One day they will laugh and dance again at Northern Illinois, but now is a time for mourning. So, we cry these tears again...

David Pilgrim
Curator, Jim Crow Museum
Date posted: May 12, 2008