Today was the last day of classes (LDOC) at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC). I graduated from the college of engineering just a few years back, May of 2015. I can remember the combined joy-stress that would normally accompany the final day of regular class. There is excitement for summer plans, both work and play, clouding the mind. A brief relief like the calm before the storm. Anxiety over upcoming exams (specifically days with multiple exams)–all that remains prior to good rest and an opportunity to breathe again. I can recall working the math, figuring all the percentages, to see what you have to make on the final exam in order to get the desired grade–or a passing grade–for the semester.
Today on campus there was a concert planned at the football stadium. There was a baseball game. There were thousands of students in that tired, mental craze–enduring the last push for finals’ readiness, paired with the full-on desire to be finished with the semester, minds at ease. These students were scrambling to study sessions across campus and chatting with friends. They were eating fast food lunches while day-dreaming about graduation. They were hoping their GPAs would pan out as needed for the interviews they hope to get for internships that would set them up well for the future. They were asking professors any last questions. But today was different. Different from anything I or anyone in the history of UNCC (on campus) has had to endure. That concert was canceled. The game was called off. Today there was an on campus shooting.
A shock. A pause. A hurt. A deep, deep ache of an interruption came to campus today.
Humans were killed; life stolen away. We don’t know if it was students or staff as of yet. But we do know that image-bearers of God, who were living and breathing and likely ready for warmer weather, visits home, an opportunity to relax, and perhaps summer jobs and travel–had the life that was within them taken. We don’t know if they looked down the barrel of a gun and had their lives pass through their minds’ eye in the last moments, or if they were caught off guard from behind, unsuspecting, or as they ran. What we do know is this: precious life was lost. Precious life was taken. And life was altered for so many who were in that classroom. So many with relations to those slaughtered needlessly. So many watching another news story of another mass shooting at another university.
The only question that was asked by media as the suspect was hauled into the station was, “what happened?” The 22 year-old student said something to the effect of “that he shot some guys.” He said it so casually, while clearly grinning. The broadcasters described him as “smug” and bearing a look that showed him “self-pleased.” There was no hint of remorse in the man. No sense of sorrow visible in his demeanor. No guilt appeared present on his conscience.
Today we see sickness. We don’t have the details, don’t know what led to this, or truly what pain will be experienced by so many as a result of this sickening action. We see so clearly the sin-sickness that plagues the created world we live in. And this time the tragedy was here at home. We see the depths of the depravity of man. We don’t know the mental status of the student-suspect taken in, but there is no question of the sin-nature so vividly displayed. A sickness that has cause hurt beyond words, one with consequences that cannot be undone.
May our prayers be with the mothers. The mothers and fathers. The sisters and brothers. The close, close friends. The cousins, the neighbors. The professors, the classmates. The communities back home, wherever home may be. The former coaches. The employers, and the coworkers…of those who were ripped away from the congregation that is a North Carolina college campus, and from the society of human culture, from the land of the living, by the evil in the mind of a man–by the hands of another man–a man who was created to bear-image of God, yet whose mind appears swallowed up in sin.
May we pause and reflect on the brevity of this life, on our own lives. May we see afresh the value of living. May we learn again to consider our neighbors and be a friend. May we know love, as we look to Jesus Christ, and show love, in a dark and broken world full of people He died to rescue from the sin that so easily entangles. Let us be Light in such a time of darkness, and in the everyday darkness and weightiness and loneliness of a fallen world.
We do not lose hope.
Praying for each of those so close to home who have endured first-hand, such a trauma.