What helps us following a tragedy is to know that there is a power greater than any wickedness.
Aurora. A new name added to our roster of terms for evil—Columbine, Virginia Tech, The Murrah Building. The list is tragically long, shorthand for wicked acts that are difficult for a just society to comprehend, let alone process.
Throughout the weekend I heard news reports that there was as yet no clear motive why a 24-year-old man would open fire in a crowded Colorado movie theater, murdering 12 random victims, including a six-year-old child, injuring scores and shattering countless lives. But there will never be a motive decent people will understand, not in cases like this. We’ve seen it before. It wasn’t greed or revenge or political extremism. It was pure evil, and evil is its own motive.
Understanding what the gunman thought will not help us accept what he did, whether he was driven to his acts by mental illness or moral depravity. What helps us now is to know that there is a comfort greater than any evil, a just and loving power whose light burns brightest in our darkest hours and illuminates our path forward.
Hate, we know, is not the answer to hate. Some of the most inspiring Guideposts stories have emerged from the most disturbing acts of violence in our culture, often from the very family members who lost loved ones in the carnage but somehow found the strength and the faith to love and forgive, a miracle even more staggering than the tragedy that demanded it. Love, perhaps, is our greatest survival mechanism. Bud Welch, whose daughter, Julie, died in the Oklahoma City bombing of the federal building there, found himself becoming more like the bomber than like his gentle daughter, consumed by an obsessive hatred that trapped him in that one horrific moment: 9:02 a.m., April 19, 1995. Only forgiveness beyond what any of us can imagine set him free. He told that story in Guideposts.
As did others from other unspeakable events, with courage and faith. These stories tell us we are not alone, that even in darkness there is hope, that good will always defeat even the most pervasive and incomprehensible evil. As our stories show, we respond to these terrible tragedies as individuals, as families, as communities and as a nation. Together we move forward. We share several of these powerful accounts of acceptance and healing with you here.
Read Dee Fleming's story of being comforted after her daughter was killed at Columbine High School.
Read Marian Hammaren's story of how her faith deepened after her daughter was killed in the Virginia Tech shootings.
Read Meredith Vieira's story of how she served as both reporter and comforting mom after the Virginia Tech tragedy.