Tragedy puts recent national focus in perspective

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Today, our nation woke to a more somber tone. We grieve as one for the victims of a crazed gunman whose shooting spree at Virginia Tech left 32 people dead and at least 15 people injured. Our prayers are offered up to their loved ones who today struggle to grasp the reality around them.

This tragedy will capture our nation for the coming days. We will look hard at our local colleges and schools, wondering what would happen if a tragedy of this nature struck there.

Questions about protocol and personal responsibility will be asked and answered. We will focus once again on teaching our young people how to recognize troubled friends who may need someone to reach out to them. Our teachers and pastors and adults in general will look closer at the people around them.

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This tragedy has reminded us of what matters most in life &8212; life itself. It has diverted our attention from the trivial &8212; can anyone say Anna Nicole Smith? &8212; or the overanalyzed &8212; Imus was wrong, but he&8217;s certainly not the only one.

We have real problems in our society, but it seems to take an outrageous tragedy such as what happened in Blacksburg, Va., to catch our attention.

When tragedy strikes, our nation responds. After Sept. 11, we rallied. When Katrina destroyed the Gulf Coast, we answered. And now, after a disturbed individual has slain so many, we will be there.

But eventually, this tragedy will fade. People will return to their everyday lives, and unfortunately that will probably mean too much focus on some dumb comment that has escaped the mouth of a trivial celebrity.

Perhaps such matters are a distraction from the Iraq War, the ethical questions of our government, the job losses of our area and the needs of the Blackbelt. Maybe people need a break.

Or, maybe we need to pay a little more attention to what matters most.