Throughout most of our lives, we have undoubtedly encountered the shocking, chilling news that another violent incident has occurred somewhere around us. Whether it was a large-scale shooting, like the D.C. sniper attacks or the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, or a stand-alone murder, these tragedies have colored every one of our lives.
We’ve all likely been personally affected by an instance of violence or loss in our lives, in some way. In fact, we, as a university community, have encountered both potential violence and actual murders, with Alexander Song’s threats last year and Justin DeSha-Overcash’s death in 2011 being the most recent and prevalent in our minds. There have been suicides and countless other acts of violence, from sexual assault to robbery. Situated in the middle of College Park, our university has been through a lot, and we have held our resolve through it all.
But now, with what police are calling a murder-suicide that left two students dead and one injured, it’s different. The enormity of this event seems to far surpass anything else we have been forced to handle as a community.
“I’ve been here 30 years and I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude,” University Police spokesman Maj. Marc Limansky said. And based on student reactions, for many, this situation feels literally unbelievable.
Whether you have spent one semester or four years here, this is our home, and something so tragic taking place right in our backyard — with some of our own as victims — can nearly shatter our sense of comfort and calm.
It begs the question: Do we feel safe on our campus? Student reaction has been mixed thus far, with some terrified in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy, while others took it at face value as something the police had no ability to stop.
This will put a cloud over our campus. In the coming days, we’ll all hear many questions asked and unverified rumors. This editorial board recognizes there is no single coping mechanism for the entire community. What we do know is that ultimately, we need to recognize there are two fewer members of our university family.
We have to ask not only what led to this moment, but what we can do now to help and what we can do in the future to be there for each other.
Yesterday’s news conference revealed the shooter had suffered from a mental illness for at least a year. While it’s imperative we focus on the victims and their family and friends, aiding and consoling in whatever way we can, it’s also crucial we take a look at how to prevent something like this from happening again.
Yes, we have to focus on taking care of our own mental health. Each one of us has that responsibility, but we also have to band together and care for each other by looking after our friends’ mental health. We all chose this university for our own reasons. We, as members of this community, are the most integral resources to one another’s mental and emotional stability and sanity. It shouldn’t take a tragedy like this to force us to realize the importance of caring for our friends’ health more deeply than what we can see on the surface. We must recognize we need to be here for each other — we have to bind together, because we are truly all we have.
This event unquestionably affects all of us differently, and we have to be sensitive to each individual reaction. The death of students cuts deep into our collective psyche; we have to be strong for those who cannot be. Provide a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen. We must rely on each other to get through this.
And if you need help, don’t hesitate to seek it. As Madison Higgins, the Help Center’s administrator said: “No matter what you are feeling, if you’re feeling sad, angry or scared, it’s all OK. Remember it’s important to reach out if you’re feeling overwhelmed in any way.”
This editorial board encourages you to go home and hug your mom, your significant other, your friends or whomever you cherish. Do what you can to be uplifting and helpful. It makes a difference.
We all must strive to fulfill university President Wallace Loh’s request that the university “come together to deal with this great loss. Ours is a university of great resolve. Together, we will emerge from our collective sadness.”