Perhaps the most agreed upon conclusion in the aftermath of tragedy is that words of condolence and sorrow are inadequate. That is the conclusion more than 200 people, most dressed in maroon and orange, heard at Friday night’s prayer at St. Mark Catholic Church in Vienna.
"How does one comfort the parents and families of 32 whose lives were brutally snuffed out," asked the Rev. Monsignor Thomas Cassidy. "Human words seem inappropriate and inadequate."
Cassidy said the community is left bewildered and powerless. "Our psyches are thrown into shock," he said. The community is left dumbfounded and speechless, as there never is a satisfactory answer to evil.
"Our expressions of condolence are fumbling and inadequate. But perhaps, that’s how it should be," said Cassidy.
While words are inadequate, and nothing could explain the senseless acts committed at Virginia Tech last week, the community can still show it has the victims and their families in its thoughts and hearts. "We cared enough to be here tonight," said Cassidy, before praying that God embraces the souls of the victims, while also showing mercy on the soul of the perpetrator.
"I FEEL VERY sad," said Janet Ball. Three of the Vienna resident’s six children attended Virginia Tech. Ball said she feels sad for the families of the victims and also fears that the university is going to suffer in the future because of the acts. "My biggest concern is that the children won’t want to return there," said Ball.
The shooting made a lasting impression on the university, according to Mark Zimpelman, a Vienna resident. Zimpelman is a friend of the family of Maxine Turner, a lifelong Vienna resident killed in the tragedy. Any time someone mentions Virginia Tech, they would think of last Monday’s tragic events, even if the mention is out of context. However, Zimpelman said he was pleased with Virginia Tech students’ response to the shooting. "There is a pride that has been demonstrated by the students," he said.
While the effects of the tragedy may last into the future, those who attended Friday’s prayer said the community should take certain actions now. "We do need to stop and pause and realize the significance of this tragedy," said Zimpelman. He said he attended the service because it was a way to honor the families of the victims. "Our presence here is to let everyone know that they’re in our thoughts," he said.
While many hugs were exchanged, and many tears shed during the service, some residents were glad that the prayer took place. "I’m overwhelmed, but very glad to have this," said Iris Gil of Vienna. "As a community we always come together, and I am so glad this was put together to send them [the victims] to the Lord with prayer," she said.
Gil agreed with Cassidy’s conclusion that words are inadequate, but said there were other things community members could do to help the families of the victims cope with their loss. Continuing prayers, and writing and sending cards to the families are some of the ways the community could show compassion to the families. "Try to listen to them, so they can express how they feel," said Gil.