The front-page story this newspaper’s editors had planned for Tuesday was about one of the survivors of the deadliest school shooting in this nation’s history, exactly six years ago at Virginia Tech. Kevin Sterne, then a graduate of Ringgold High School and a resident of Nottingham Township, still carries a bullet in his hip from that day when he nearly died from his wounds. Thirty-three fellow students were killed.
However, the interview with Sterne, by Observer-Reporter staff writer Rich Shrum, was bumped from the front page to the Local section by a more jarring and immediate story: the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
The shock, the anger, the bewildering mix of emotions felt by the nation this week were reminiscent of those experienced six years ago. The Boston attack may also have dredged memories of other April horrors: Columbine April 20, 1999; and the Oklahoma City bombing April 19, 1995.
As with all of these events, the media will come in for much criticism for their saturation coverage of the event. Often, the attention of the public and the media is concentrated on the perpetrators of calamity, while the many victims of their crimes are acknowledged in numbers rather than names. That’s not always the case, though. And Kevin Sterne’s story, timely as it is, addresses violence from the point of view of the victim.
Sterne did not allow fear to direct him. He returned to Virginia Tech for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is now a special research faculty member there in the Department of Engineering. Of the murdering rampage he survived, Sterne said, “This is not among those 10 things I will remember throughout my life. I’m sure many more things will be important.”
Though his physical recovery will never be complete, his positive attitude about his life should be a lesson for not just the victims of violence, but for us all.