Survival Skills

In the library her brother, Craig Scott, had no idea his sister had just been brutally executed. But in minutes he too would suffer an ordeal that would haunt him at night and put him on the path to forgiveness and purpose.

I can only describe in words what he experienced. I can’t convey the emotions and terror he must have felt.

When the two gunmen entered the library they began a heartless and seemingly random attack against all who were present there. Two friends of Craig’s, Matt and Isaiah, were both shot and killed right in front of him. In all, ten classmates would be slain in the library. Craig somehow was spared, and perhaps it was for his courage and his resolve to do something positive with what could have been a very debilitating and anger-inducing crisis.

Craig presently travels across the country speaking to millions of teens bringing a message of “kindness and compassion into the classroom.” His choice to place the focus on the positive of his sister Rachel’s life has had a big impact on those he speaks to, including President Bush. Craig, along with his Dad, Darrell and sister Dana have created a life-changing school program called Rachel’s Challenge in which the words and life philosophy of Rachel come to life through six diaries she had written before her life was prematurely brought to a close.. The Scotts believe that a loss of character in school is our society’s biggest downfall and that the focus should not be on academic achievement alone.

Although Craig’s faith in God has helped him survive this tragedy, I believe it ultimately comes down to his forgiveness of the two gunmen. The healing can begin when the anger is discharged and, by truly forgiving, Craig put himself on the path of survival. Like Rachel and her family, if you put out kindness, respect and compassion, “you may just start a chain reaction.”

I realize this is a sensitive subject now as it was then, and our hearts and prayers go out to the families and victims of the shootings on April 16, 2007 at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, VA.

A 23 year-old student by the name of Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed thirty-two people, and also injured a dozen more in two recent campus attacks in Virginia. After his brutal killings, he committed suicide. During the onslaught, many students and teachers allowed others to reach safety through their selfless acts of heroism, many ending up dead or wounded in the process.

Garrett Evans, a survivor of the Virginia Tech shootings, also has stated that he forgives the shooter, which has allowed him to move onto healing.

But let me be clear: the decision to forgive lies solely with the survivors or victims. As a country and a society our forgiveness weakens our resolve to put an end to these senseless and savage acts of violence. If as a whole we are too liberal with our punishments against these individuals or would-be assassins there is a real risk of actually reinforcing the idea that this is acceptable, like forgive and all is forgotten. But that is not the answer. The media, along with the government have to show that these barbaric acts against fellow humans are inexcusable to say the least.

When an individual forgives their assailant or attacker or whoever has done them wrong, it helps that person to release the anger, resentment and fear which is preventing them from moving on to the healing process. Anger, resentment and fear in the individual will only strengthen their hate and may cause them to lash out at those they love. It can also lead to many more psychological problems and issues.

But when a society adopts a stance of forgiveness, many of those same feelings and issues that are evident in the individual don’t carry over or equal out to those of the society. We can become complacent instead of indignantly protesting and standing firm on the fact that this rogue and wanton taking of lives is not acceptable. It will and should never be accepted as to any excuse as to why these individuals have acted this way.

We as a country must make a tough stand against those who would hurt our children, fathers, mothers, friends and loved ones and not falter in our declaration of proper moral values and ethical emotional behavior.