Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: Yield for mourning

Apr. 20, 2013 @ 11:14 PM

We will never forget. What does that mean, really? It’s used often to remember the massacre of 32 Virginia Tech students and faculty at my alma mater in 2007. It may well be used to remember the bombings at the Boston Marathon – two tragedies which will both share an April week in history. What does it mean to remember? What will it mean to remember?
Already, people are talking about moving on from Boston. I don’t think we should. I know our 24-hour news cycle makes two days seem like two weeks, but it’s not. It hasn’t even been a week since the bombings. No moving forward yet. Oh, sure, we wake up the next day and feed our children breakfast and go to work and such. That’s the moving forward that must happen no matter what else is going on around us. But to never forget means to keep room for reverence. To yield. To keep caring.
This past Tuesday, April 16, the anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings, I checked the university’s webcam at Burruss Hall. It was a nice weather day in Blacksburg, and I watched the shadow of clouds drift across the Drillfield, where the little stone memorials to the 32 victims are in view. There was a steady stream of orange and maroon clad visitors walking by them. Current VT students were in high school when the shootings happened. I was working here in Durham. But we remember the heartache that follows when lives are ripped away by the inhumanity of another.
I imagine in the years to come there will be some sort of monument or other physical, visual reminder of the Boston bombings and aftermath. It’s good to have something solid to see. For those touched personally by Boston or Blacksburg or Sandy Hook or all those other places of violent loss, there is no need for reminders. The reminders live inside hearts, morning, noon and night. On the yearly anniversaries of tragedies, newspapers and others will interview survivors who will talk about what happened. Those of us removed a little will be reminded to remember. Remembering, dwelling, commemorating is important. So is living each new day, but to a point.
Is saying that we’ll persevere rude to those who died? Sorry you’re gone, but nothing can keep us down? Rise up, keep going, fight back. All those things are important. But so is slowing down and being respectful.
I went to a funeral in rural Virginia last month, and when the procession left the church, local law enforcement stopped traffic. It was a long drive to the cemetery for a long line of cars with hazards flashing. The other cars on the road – all but a few – yielded as they should have, even though they didn’t know the person who died. Cars paused not just as the motorcade left the church, but through all the country miles it took to get to the cemetery.
Pausing for Boston should be longer than just the first few cars. Wait. Let everyone go by. Make room. Yield. And later, remember.
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at dvaughan@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6563.