Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another take on a horrible event

Ruth just wrote about the same thing, but we decided to go ahead and post both of our thoughts...I'd encourage you to read hers too...just two different attempts at processing the bad stuff going on here...

By Kevin

This was the news we got yesterday morning: a student “fell” to her death from a window on either the 10th or 12th floor of the main building just before 10 a.m. on Saturday. We frantically called and text messaged all of our class monitors, praying that it wasn't one of ours, knowing that whoever it was now left a line of devastated people: parents likely without their only child, friends, roommates and classmates wondering what they could have done to help, school officials trying to deflect blame.

Outside, children played in the courtyard, oblivious to the mourning going on all around them.

Slowly, each messaged back, saying that all their classmates were OK. But some were home for the weekend, so they really hadn't heard.

Although the school blocked reporters from coming on campus, we began to piece together what likely happened from students who saw it happen (we don't REALLY know the details, however, because in China, officials tend to try and keep this sort of thing as quiet as possible, knowing that they may be blamed for it and lose their job, even though, in my opinion, there's absolutely nothing officials could have done to stop it).

One student said she was studying near the pond behind the main building when she saw a shadow fall from the sky, then heard the body hit the ground with a loud thud, and people began crying.

“The body fell beside a girl,” said one student. “She couldn't stop crying.”

Another student shared how she and her roommates hurried to the scene as soon as they heard the news, only to see the bloody form of a body covered in a bloody sheet. “I wish I hadn't gone,” she said, shaking.

“At first I didn't see the blood on the wall, but then my roommates pointed it out,” she said. “I can't get the image from my mind.”

According to news reports and blogs I found using Google translate, one of which showed a photo of a sheet-covered body and others of workers mopping up blood spatter (I'd recommend NOT looking), police were still investigating the cause of death and still trying to determine the girl's identity as late as this morning, because she carried no identification, only keys, and her face was so badly mangled that nobody could identify her.

Rumors swirled. Did she jump? Was she pushed? Some said it was a senior, others a junior. Some suggested a sophomore, and at least one thought it was a freshman. “Maybe she couldn't find a job,” one suggested. Others suggested a romantic falling out, an unwanted pregnancy, or failure to get into graduate school. “There is a lot of pressure.”

But almost everyone speculated suicide.

Another Internet news report posted what it claimed was a suicide note found on the campus square:

“别人的晨读声 Morning Reading other people's voice
匆忙的脚步和我这个闲人 And I am in a hurry in the footsteps of the idlers
半死人简直就是差若天渊 People half to death if it is a vast difference
阿门 Amen
我要死了 I was going to die,
不在今天 Today, not
就在明天 On tomorrow
不在明天 Not tomorrow
就在某天 Just one day
今天心死 Today disheartened
明天身死 Tomorrow dead body
某天得到永生 One day be immortalized”

A student who saw a photo of the body said that it was “too horrible.” “They made me look at it several times,” she said. “I don't know who it was. I can't stop thinking about it.”

One class monitor said that her teachers asked her to call every student in her class at least three times yesterday to confirm that she was able to reach each of them. The school was having a hard time determining who was missing on a campus of some 15,000 students because many live nearby and go home for the weekend.

I pictured all the sets of roommates who spent the night not knowing if the one who didn't come home last night might be dead. It was a few hours before I could sleep.

By this morning, at least one student seemed pretty sure: it was a junior English major from a particular class. Not in a class any of us taught, but in one that Christina's past teammates taught. I was simultaneously relieved and horrified. “How can I be grateful just that it isn't my student. She was still valuable enough for the father to send his son for her.”

So, now I'm left numb: What do you say when a student jumps from the 12th floor of the tallest building on campus – the same building where you'll be trying to give finals on Monday? Is there anything you can say that won't sound trite and incomplete?

I wondered, is there anyone for students to talk to here.

One student explained that there is a psychology department that offers counseling to students.

“We can talk to them, but most students don't feel comfortable,” she said.

“Most of our teachers will pretend this did not happen,” another said. “They will come into class, teach, then leave. We don't know who to talk to.”

We talked with them, then played dominoes, in hopes of easing their spirits a bit, then offered to pray with them.

Walking around campus today, I felt the spirit say that I needed to just sit, listen and observe near the pond behind the main building.

Unsurprisingly, almost everyone who passed by lifted their heads toward the window the girl jumped from. The ground was still wet from cleaning crews trying to clean away the blood, but one area in particular was darker than others, suggesting a landing site. The few students I saw walk towards it took tentative steps and held the hand or arm of a friend.

I felt the father say, “This is still holy ground. I am here.”

A pair of students, seeing me, asked if I'd heard the news.

One said that she was in the building when it happened. When word spread, she looked out the window and saw the bloody body. “Horrible.”

“When you were at university, did you experience this?” she asked.

“I didn't,” I said. “But I saw dead bodies when I worked as a journalist. You're right, it is horrible.”

“It's terrible,” said one. “It seems like now everybody is pessimistic, not optimistic anymore. I don't know why.”

I wanted to shake her.

“I think that everybody's thinking about death and their troubles,” I managed. “In my experience, people try to avoid thinking about those kinds of things.”

Like I said, where do you start?

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