Editor’s note: Melody Kosowski is a medical support assistant at Veterans Administration Hospital and a mom of four. Three of her children were on the Virginia Tech campus during the two fatal shootings in the past five years.
I was horrified to learn Friday morning that another shooting had occurred at yet another school. Our family has been touched by two shootings in the past, both at Virginia Tech.
For my husband, Jim, there was an eerie similarity between the April 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, where our oldest son, Keith, was a senior, and the events at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday. Jim first saw the story about the Connecticut elementary school shooting with reports of two victims, which was very similar to the first reports out of VT (it was initially reported as a shooting in a dormitory). When we heard that the total number of victims at Sandy Hook was above 20, it immediately brought back memories of the Virginia Tech shootings, where the death toll reached 33, including the shooter.
When the first reports of the 2007 dormitory shooting were released, Keith called my husband. I was in training at work and did not receive the message until later -- I was badly shaken. Our son kept both of us informed about the events as they unfolded. We knew the entire time that he was safe and did not leave his apartment near campus.
In 2011, another incident occurred at Virginia Tech, when a murder of a police officer and a suicide caused a lockdown. Our two youngest children, Russell and Elizabeth, were juniors there.
Like most Americans, we both thought, “Not again! This cannot be happening again at Virginia Tech. Our children cannot be in the middle of a terrible, random mass shooting again!”
Russ was never in any danger -- he was in his apartment off campus when the initial emergency alert went out. But his twin, Elizabeth, was in “lockdown” in a dining hall for five hours. We knew she was safe; still, I shook uncontrollably when my daughter called to tell me there had been another shooting.
She felt safe because of frequent updates given to everyone in the building. Everyone was told to stay away from windows and no one was allowed to enter or leave the building. Even with the quick action of Virginia Tech officials and my daughter's sense of security, I remained worried until I got the final word that she was no longer in “lockdown.”
While there are similarities between the events at Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook, we were extremely fortunate to never experience the horror of not knowing whether our children were safe, of not being able to communicate with them. Our children did not have to walk through a school with their eyes closed in order to avoid seeing victims and blood.
Today, both those incidents are, for the most part, in our past. Our children have graduated. Our oldest has gotten married. We get together as a family during the holidays and spend precious time together. Our lives have returned to normal.
I want to be careful not to compare our experience of the events at Virginia Tech to what the parents of the grade school children at Sandy Hook experienced. But as a parent, it is impossible not to feel for the parents and families of the victims and the survivors. Why did this happen? Why did children die? These are the questions that may never be answered. These are the questions that the parents of Sandy Hook will never stop asking.
To the parents of those lost in the Sandy Hook tragedy, we cannot imagine the heart-wrenching grief you are going through right now. Your loved ones will never be forgotten.