This morning I was once again struck by the power of a list of names of those lost in a tragedy. The first time I experienced this was listening to U2’s Peace on Earth, in which Bono sings the following stanza:
They’re reading names out over the radio
All the folks the rest of us won’t get to know
Sean and Julia, Gareth and Ann and Breda
Their lives are bigger than any big idea
I believe these people died in a bombing in Northern Ireland that actually occurred when Eva and I were visiting the country. The list in the song affected me more than the close call did.
Then, when U2 was on tour in the US when 9/11 happened, they took to projecting the names of the dead on the roof (and walls) of the arena during the show. I was never there live, but the effect was powerful even on video.
Now, this morning, Wes Freyer linked to the wikipedia article about the shooting at Virginia Tech. I saw plenty of news about this event on CNN over lunch yesterday and on Google News each time I opened my browser. I was of course moved by the senseless of it all, but I didn’t really feel the loss until I saw the list of the fatalities on the Wikipedia page… students from all over the country (and the world.. can you imagine your son or daughter being shot to death when they’ve gone to The United States of America for school? How responsible do our gun laws seem for that?)… and faculty, too, from all over the world, including Liviu Librescu, who (it appears) was both a holocaust survivor and – in the end – a hero. He was killed while holding off the gunman so his students could escape out the window. His major research fields were aeroelasticity and unsteady aerodynamics, and I’m sure that doesn’t even begin to tell his story.
UPDATE: After reading some of the recent news articles (including some cited in the wikipedia), it seems Professor Librescu was far from alone in his heroics. Many students and faculty worked to save and help each other. Like 9/11, I suspect this is one of the important stories that will be taken away from this tragedy.