April 20, 2007


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I'm graduating from Tech in only a few weeks. All I can say is that the past week has just been surreal, almost like it hasn't hit me yet even though I've seen hours and hours of coverage on CNN. I knew three people who died and two who were wounded, and it just floors me how supportive and caring people have been. Have you seen pictures of the candlelight vigil? It was simply amazing how many people came out in support and seeing pictures of it later, it was a beautiful thing.

Honestly, the best thing that has helped me was Nikki Giovanni's poem she read at convocation. When I saw/heard her saying it at convocation, I just broke down and cried. It's an amazing poem written by an amazing woman that just summed up everything perfectly. (http://filebox.vt.edu/users/news/convocation_giovanni.mp3 if anyone wants to listen)


Like Laura, I'm a VT student also. Thank you for posting this. It HAS been hard talking to my parents and sisters about all of this. They say the right things but I feel more comfortable being with my friends right now. I'll try to remember not to push my family away. Thank you.


Wow, I can't believe that you were actually AT Henry's on that awful night! I was living in Berkeley at the time, too, and was shocked and horrified by that event. I can't imagine what it would have been like to have lived through it!! Again, WOW.

Thanks for this good post.


Delurking just to say that this is one of the most useful responses to the tragedy that I've seen. Thank you for sharint this, it must have been painful to write.


Thanks Pierre. That was a wonderful letter. I'm sure you hoped you'd never have to use that experience to help others.

I too have been so impressed with the entire VT community throughout this entire ordeal. As a non-native Virginian, I finally understand what it means to be a Hokie.


That was really wonderful, MD. Thank you for sharing.


I hope this letter finds its way to all the VT students. In this day of 24/7 inundated media coverage, I think it'd be nice for them to hear your perspective.

What a crazy story, MD. Glad you made it out of that ordeal alive.

SciFi Dad

Woah. Just woah.

Anne Glamore

Wow, MD. Hard to believe there are other incidents some of us were previously unaware of.

Your advice seems right on.

I'm a Hoo thinking about the Hokies.


Your words will no doubt be of comofort to those affected by this tragedy, if they find them.

Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom.


Man. I hope VT students make their way onto your blog and read this. Thanks Metrodad.


I'm sorry, MD. You made me want to cry. I can't even begin to imagine what that was like for you. And then for the wise and comforting words to the students at VT, well, I wish they could read what you wrote for them. Much love to you!


Your words and the first two comments moved me. Thank you for posting this, I am sure that is will help people.

Papa Bradstein

Living here in VA, working at an education nonprofit, this has been at the forefront of my mind all week, and I've been thinking of you often through this ordeal, MD, wondering how it was for you to watch all of this after what you had been through. You continue to inspire and impress me with your wisdom and compassion.


Thanks for this MD, not only is it useful for the VTech students, but it's also quite helpful for anyone who's suffered through a traumatic event. It must have been difficult to write.

The Other Ruth


Someone forward this sucker to the NYFT.

Best thing I've read... and I'm crying now.

[And that's not a bad cry... a needed one...]



MD, what an ordeal you went through. I'm sure your thoughtful words are going to bring comfort to many.



You make me weep with articles like this.

You make me laugh with stories of BossLady, Peanut and you.

You touch my heart and my soul with your keen insights into life.

Thank you for using your pain to help heal others' hurts. I pray that your message finds many of them.



Thanks for this amazing post.



I've never had something like that happen to me, but I have gone through other traumatic events. Every single point you made rings true to my situations, and humanized this event and made it a much bigger deal to me. And then on top of that, I felt like you knew my situations and were giving me that advice, even though I have nothing to do with the shooting. Thanks.

Mr. Big Dubya


I've got nothin' else. There's nothing else I can say.


There are no words...


Oh my god-

Thank you for writing this.
this is incredible, MD.


Thanks for sharing your experiences in the true hope that it will help others. I am continously amazed by your concern, thoughtfulness, wisdom and experience. Anyone can be funny, but not many can convey the pain of tragedy (and the healing process) as you have. I'm sure others will agree with me.

L.A. Daddy

Thanks for sharing. And I'm so glad you made it out okay. I can't imagine. while I've been close to death many times, it's usually been because of something stupid I did... not the deranged acts of a madman.

Michelle Woo

In regards to bullet point No. 6: It's not like journalists enjoy covering tragedies such as this one. As a reporter, I hate it, actually. All you want to do is mourn and reflect with the rest of the world, but you can't. There isn't time. People want information. People want to talk. You have a job. I understand how a quest for answers can seem insensitive, but so does labeling all journalists "bottom-feeding scumbags."

thank you for writing this.

i've been reading your blog for a couple of months now but have never commented until now. i want to thank you so much for writing this piece. i have had a heavy heart since monday and i've been able to cry for the first time after reading this. i really hope that va tech students also get to read your piece to give them some comfort in their pain.

this tradegy has hit me close to home. I immigrated to the US as a child, grew up in northern virginia, and went to college close to tech. i've been overwhelmed by emotions after this tragedy. most of all i feel pain for the victims and their families, and their lost potential and innocence, but i feel sorry for the family of the assailant. when i read the media coverage, I get confused at why they keep referring to this kid as a korean, when he is a korean american. and it's also upsetting that korean people are apologizing for the actions of this mentally ill individual just because he's of the same ethnicity. while i understand that koreans come from a collectivistic culture, i feel feel furstrated that they feel they should apologize for him. i'm originally iranian but i'm not going to apologize because of the actions of that schizophrenic iranian man just as it would be crazy for irish americans to apologize for timothy mcvey's actions. in any case, thanks for sharing this. i know that it will bring others some comfort.

moe berg

what you've written sheds a little light into the joy for life that comes across every time you post.

somehow, though, i suspect it'd be there regardless of your experience.


Hi MD -

I thought of you not too long after I heard and read about the tragic horrors at VT. I had previously read of your ordeal through your archives... I was hoping you would offer up your perspective. Thank you for going above and beyond. Your comments and suggestions should help a lot of people. I hope your blog entry gets picked up and passed around to all of those in pain. Bless you for your humor (usually) and your compassion today.



In regards to bullet point No. 6: It's not like journalists enjoy covering tragedies such as this one. As a reporter, I hate it, actually. All you want to do is mourn and reflect with the rest of the world, but you can't. There isn't time. People want information. People want to talk. You have a job. I understand how a quest for answers can seem insensitive, but so does labeling all journalists "bottom-feeding scumbags."

Posted by: Michelle Woo UNQUOTE

Michelle, Your "quest for answers" is soooo noble and much more important than the human experience (read that with sarcasm).

Think before you speak. And think before you go bothering traumatized people in your "quest".


They should publish this isn that area but of course they won't because they won't like the "scumbag" reference!

mr nice guy

i'm actually with michelle woo on this one. but don't take my word for it. jack shafer put it nicely this week with In Praise of Insensitive Reporters

that said, this was a fascinating post, pierre. thanks.


Thanks for sharing your story, MD. I've been reading your blog for well over a year but had no idea you'd been through something that life-changing. You make very good points.

I agree with Michelle Woo also. Not all journalists are bottom-feeding scumbags, or at least we try not to be. (There are unforunate exceptions to the rule as there are in any profession.) I get the sense that you agreed to an interview and were used, and as a journalist, I am truly sorry if that's what happened. But it's about as fair to label all journalists as such as it is for me to say all Korean men are bottom-feeding scumbags because my Korean ex-boyfriend verbally and emotionally abused me, knocked me up, and stalked me for three months to get me to agree to end the pregnancy. Or for anyone to lash out at Korean Americans because of Cho's heritage.

I agree though, with the point that victims in this situation should be guarded when giving any interviews. If you want to share your story, bring a parent or friend with you who can back you up and end the interview in case you get one of the bottom feeders. Also beware of the "news" source. Geraldo Rivera, news pundits with clear biases (very liberal or conservative) and anyone from a sensationalistic news channel (ahem, FOX) is not going to do you any favors.

Peace, writergirl


You have now proven that you have the ability to make your readers laugh out loud one day and cry like a baby the next. It is a talent that few possess. Kudos for a tasteful and deeply thoughtful post.


Remember it well too.

Don't know why I stayed in that night but could easily have been there with you, Freitag, Landa and everyone else.

Great post Pierre.

Go Hokies and Go Bears!


This is some of the best writing I've seen regarding this terrible tragedy. You're right. It seems everyone is using this ordeal to push some sort of personal agenda. Like you, I can't help thinking about all those young kids and what they must be going through.

Hapa Mom

I remember hearing about the Berkeley incident, I'm sorry to hear you were there during that horrific incident. Your letter to VA Tech is probably the most helpful piece of information that any of those kids can hear right now. My thoughts and prayers are with VA Tech and the rest of the world who watches in pain.

Hygiene Dad


You really know how to crystallize thoughts so perfectly. Again, another brilliant post.

Thanks for letting the world read what you write.


I read the article "In Praise Of Insensitive Reporters", and the author took a few too many paragraphs to say, "I was just following orders."

An acquaintance of mine was murdered a few years ago. He would have been a friend of mine, but that won't ever happen now. His band was about to take off. Friends of mine have gone insane. The news covering everything from the wake to the funeral to the memorial show to the trial two years later didn't help. By then, how many people cared about him anymore? No one except the people who were directly affected. A simple, "A young man was murdered tonight," and a few informative details, such as when and where and maybe (and only if they could have gotten their facts straight) why, would have done far less damage. As it was, all the media managed to do was turn his murder into a racial media circus.

If it's so terrible for journalists to knock on a grieving parent's door to ask them how they feel, how do you think it is feels for the parents to know that if they turn on the tv, all they will see is coverage and misreporting of their dead kid? It is 1000 times worse for the people living through the tragedy than it is for the journalists, so no. I don't have any pity for them.


I forgot to mention this in my previous comment.

It is humiliating to cry and realize that someone has been filming you the entire time. I felt ashamed for having done something that got me noticed, and I felt even worse when I went to work the next day and co-workers said, "Oh, I thought that was you on the news! We were watching it in the breakroom!"


Your writing and perspective on all of this have touched me greatly. Thank you. I hope your letter helps all those poor VT kids.


May God bless them and bring peace to their family and friends.


And thank you for sharing your past experience. I'm sure you can help many of those affected.


hey, pierre. thanks for writing this. I came across it after googling "berkeley hostage" because yep, I was there too. I was one of the women dashti released after about an hour in there.

thank you for writing this. every time an event like this happens, I find myself experiencing a bit of the retrauma.

Your words to the people affected by the VA Tech folks are so full of wisdom. I so wish someone had told me these words back then. (Maybe someone even did, but, like you mention, I was too busy drowning my feelings under a bottle of gin.)

Thanks again.

Carol Snider

Grew up in Berkeley in the 60's and had a few traumatic moments of my own there... but they focused on tear gas and lost brothers and the like... not on near-death experiences.

Your words are both comforting and chilling. Your writing is masterful.



Samantha Jo Campen

I had no idea.


Blessings to you for writing this, and my thoughts and prayers to those suffering at VT.

It's still hard for me to wrap my mind around. . . .

RookieMom Whitney

I love your writing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.

I live in Berkeley and my friend Corie was in the bar that night, but I had forgotten about the incident until reading your post.

As a parent, it's terrifying to think that your child or someone else's child may grow up and suffer from mental illness like the shooter. My sympathies are also with Cho's parents.


MD - Good lord, what a powerful story, and what a great thing to share at this time.

I am amazed at what people are able to go through a not only survive, but thrive. It is the courage of others that allows me to go through what I'm going through in my little corner of the world without turning to a fishtank full of merlot to get through.

This too shall pass.


couldn't agree more with your advice, MD, especially after surviving the hijacking of a Pan Am flight back in 1986.

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