Hours after students cowered behind desks and played dead in hopes that Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui would spare their lives, minutes after the body count was made public and started to climb, it took only seconds for the gluttonous demons in dark corners of men’s souls to perk up and devise a plan on how to best capitalize on a tragic story that even satisfied the devil himself.
Atheists and evangelicals, gun-toters and arms opposers, and other talking heads with punches to throw delayed healing by using the backdrop of the tragic killings to guilefully push their own agendas. Amidst these vultures, perhaps the most flagrant exploiter of the catastrophe was NBC News, who decided to air self-taken photographs and a homemade video of Cho multiple times over national airwaves, just two days after the events took place and literally hours after the videos were received. In between the first and second set of murders last Monday, April 16, the killer put the finishing touches on the video and overnighted it, along with a series of photographs, to NBC News headquarters.
Soon after the tapes of wrath aired, NBC President Steve Capus made a statement assuring Americans that the network struggled with the decision to release the videos. In the end, however, NBC pinned their collective conscious into submission and granted the psychotic killer a public posthumous forum, completing the final phase of Cho’s demonic plan.
Just a quick look at the pictures and videos makes Capus’ motives clear. Stamped into the top-left corner of the video and every still of Cho is the NBC news logo — peacock and all. NBC News anchor Brian Williams admitted in a later interview that airing even part of the video would promise the killer the martyrdom he hoped to achieve. In the name of profit, NBC served as an instrumental accomplice, helping make Cho’s plan come to complete fruition and allowing the friends and families of the victims the opportunity to look into the eyes of the gun-wielding killer, the same eyes their loved ones saw before losing their lives.
Releasing the video helped further what Cho started, burying the lives of the innocent underneath layers of dirt and self-serving agendas.
Feeling disgust after being repeatedly showered with sponsored images and videos of the killer, I began to wonder how much information was publicly known about the innocent victim’s lives.
Online newspapers such as the New York Times provided brief bios and one or two photos of each victim. Hometowns, majors and quotes from friends provided abbreviated and filtered second-hand accounts of the victim’s lives; accounts which didn’t seem to satisfy my suddenly aching need to find out who these kids really were, what they did for fun and what they hoped and dreamed of. As unthinkable as it may seem, links to MySpace profiles provided what is probably the most personal and endearing insights available about the victim’s lives in their own words.
The first MySpace profile I came across was that of freshman Lauren McCain. Lauren was a 20-year old international studies major from Oklahoma. Her brother Joel was listed as her hero. She hoped to have children one day and wanted to meet Andre the Giant because he was “sooooo cool!”
Of all the details on her page, none proved more horrifying than time-stamped comments from friends which evolve from hellos and jokes to urgent pleas asking Lauren to call her parents to grieving memoirs describing her as a great role model and friend.
Further agonizing are Lauren’s pictures. Several display her presumable love of nature and outdoors and she stands in front of a botanical garden in one shot and in another overlooks the horizon on a sunny day in San Diego. Littered with goofy comments and exclamation points, Lauren’s profile began to reflect a young and lively girl.
As much as I ache to help, situations like these leave me feeling completely unqualified as a voice and helpless as a human being. I know Virginia Tech has established a Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund to assist victims and their families. Though I am hesitant in suggesting a financial contribution at the expense of the valid criticism that money won’t make things better, I trust the fund was established because families and the school legitimately need help and I ask everyone to consider donating.
Though I never knew Lauren and only know about her what she decided to reveal on her MySpace page, I am convinced that the world is a lesser place without her and the other 31 people lost in this immeasurable catastrophe. I pray healing and comfort will come swiftly to all those affected so that one day soon, we can begin to live life the way it was originally intended, before wretched souls began turning innocent loss into their own gain.
Behzad Varamini is a graduate student in Nutritional Sciences. He can be contacted at email@example.com. Gain Through Loss appears alternate Wednesdays.