I've heard a couple of commentators make the point that what happened at Virginia Tech was a massacre and that people shouldn't call it a tragedy. Their point is that tragedies happen when people are killed in earthquakes, floods, etc. and to call the slaughter at Virginia Tech a tragedy avoids acknowledging the underlying evil.
I can appreciate their point, but I think "tragic" is the right word when I hear about people like Ryan Clark. As you probably know by this point, Clark was one of the first victims. Here is a bio on him from the Washington Post:
Ryan C. Clark
Hometown: Martinez, Ga.
Major: English and Biology
Location: West Ambler Johnston Hall dormitory
Related Links: Family, friends remember Ryan Clark (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 17, 2007)
Family 'devastated' (CNN.com, April 17, 2007)
Profile: Ryan C. Clark's favorite place in the world was Camp Big Heart, a summer spot in Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, Ga. Every summer for the past eight years, he spent two weeks at the camp for mentally impaired children, first as a volunteer counselor and, later, as music director.
"He was one of the kindest, most compassionate people I have ever known," said Mary Ellen Ipser, the camp's administrator. "He was also one of the funniest. He knew how to play, and the staff, parents, campers -- everybody -- adored him. He was the kind of the person who always kept you up. He'd put his arm around you and say, 'Come on, girl, I love you.' I am 71 years old, the administrator of the camp, and he didn't treat me any differently than the 18-year-olds."
Clark, 22, grew up in Martinez, Ga., and became interested in music when he was in sixth grade, his twin, Bryan, said yesterday. Bryan also worked at the camp each year as athletic director. The two weeks they spent sleeping in a cabin was when they reconnected as they got older and their lives diverged.
"He had degrees in psychology, biology and English," his brother said. "A brainiac. He planned to pursue a PhD in neuroscience. He wanted to work with the mentally impaired."
Ryan Clark was a resident adviser in the West Ambler Johnston dormitory, where he was killed Monday when he left his fourth-floor room to investigate a report of a dispute, friends said.
"I can tell you that he was the type of person that if there was a problem, and he was aware of it, he would always do his job," said Will Petersen, the assistant director of the Marching Virginians, the Tech band that Clark played with for four years. "And he was always willing to be the first person to put in a hand and help out."
He played the baritone in the band, a brass instrument that matched his brassy personality.
Bryan Clark said his family would try visit Virginia Tech two or three times a year, almost always on band family day.
Ipser said Ryan had told her recently that he was afraid that he was not going to be able to make it to Camp Big Heart this summer.
"He said he was getting a job and he might not be able to come," she said. "I think the job was pretty important to him, or he wouldn't have missed camp. All of the staff knew he might not come, and we've been sending him messages telling him what we were going to do with him if he didn't come, which seems kind of sad now."
On the band's Web site yesterday, there was a picture of Ryan Clark flashing a big smile and both hands forming a "V."
A message from his band mates said: "The Marching Virginians are deeply sorrowed by the loss of fellow MV and friend, Ryan "Stack" Clark. He was a loved friend, mentor, and role model who will always hold a special place in the hearts of all the MVs as a true example of The Spirit Of Tech. Stack, we thank you for all the memories, and for sharing with us your true love of life. We will love and miss you always." -- Timothy Dwyer, The Washington Post
Ryan Clark sounds like he was a terrific young man, with a bright and promising future. Who knows what he could he accomplished? There's no other word for his loss than what it is -- a great tragedy.