But it is, in a very real sense, my temple. I am continually bitterly disgusted and surprised to find corruption and cynicism flowering here. I hold seemingly bottomless reserves of faith in the power of the academic. I think any life is possible for a person who embraces it. I grew up in a town where education was valued by very few, where poverty left many of my friends alcoholics before they'd left for college, if they left at all. My high school had a mortality rate. My sister and I could sit around and talk about the car crashes that did people in on the country back roads. We could, but we don't, because we wouldn't know what to say about a world that's so brutal and so small. I knew, even there, that college would save me. I knew it and I was right and it did not let me down.
And so as I'm reading the blog posts that are going up today about the slaughter at Virginia Tech, I'm thinking about someone on the radio who said he thought that this would be a wake-up call to colleges that they were part of the real world and not protected from violence. Of course colleges are part of the real world. Of course none of us are safe from violence. We are the real world. We bring the violence to campus with us. But I'm outraged that someone would defile the temple, throw away what academia has to offer, take away someone else's salvation. I wonder how many of the dead thought college could save them the way I knew it would save me.
A Virginia Tech professor broke down in the middle of an NPR interview this afternoon. I broke down, too. Not because I never thought it could happen, but because when you leave someone bleeding on a classroom floor, hope and power and salvation are left there, too. That person could have been anyone. That classroom could have made it so.
The photo above was taken by an anonymous someone. It's of Carrie Tower, on my favorite college campus of all.