33 vs. 32
Today is an important day. It’s the day I turn 33. This allows for a fair amount of self-reflection. You see, these are important numbers for us Hokies, my former age and my new one. 32 people were murdered on April 16th, 2007. But 33 people died. It is a small distinction numerically with a massive psychological difference. 32 people were murdered. 32 homicides in the span of about 9 minutes. 32 victims. 32 martyrs. 32 lifelong learners who were sacrificed. But 33 people died. 33 deaths in the span of about 9 minutes. 33 sons and daughters lost. 33 brothers and sisters perished.
Those who hurt others usually hurt themselves. It is the past-facing version of the Golden Rule, which is not just “do onto others as you would have done onto you” but also “you do onto others as has been done onto you”. Combined, they achieve a fuller story, the future and the past-facing remarks on the nature of actions towards each other.
33 then, feels to me to be the number of understanding and forgiveness. If we can understand the mind of the committers of these atrocious events, we can learn to adapt. And if we forgive, we can learn to prevent. This is what this year means to me, learning to prevent, in the names of the 33.