Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Georgians among those killed at Virginia Tech

The Widow's Son and all Masons (if I may speak for you) send out prayers for and condolences to the students, faculty, friends, families, law enforcement agents and others who were involved in and affected by yesterday's senseless killings at Virginia Tech.

Christopher "Jamie" Bishop, instructor of Introductory German, was the first to die in the classroom building. He earned his undergraduate and masters degrees at the University of Georgia. He was an avid hiker, movie buff, and Atlanta Braves fan. He had spent several years in Germany, and had married Dr. Stefanie Hofer, whom he met there. She is an instructor of foreign languages at Virginia Tech as was he.

You can see Jamie's Virginia Tech website here.

Jamie was a talented artist and photographer. You can see his portfolio here.

Jamie Bishop's father is science fiction writer Michael Bishop, from Pine Mountain, Georgia. The elder Bishop is the author of The Secret Ascension: Philip K. Dick is Dead, Alas. The "alas" in the title of the Kurt Vonnegut article I wrote here last week, "Kurt Vonnegut is Dead, Alas," was a nod/tribute to PKD and to the 1987 novel by Michael Bishop.

Several bloggers who knew Jamie have written about him in the past 24 hours. As someone who has lost close friends who were in the prime of their lives, including one who was murdered, I especially sympathize with them:Ryan Clark, 22, from Martinez, near Augusta, Georgia was one of the first two people killed in yesterday's rampage. Ryan was to graduate next month with dual degrees in biology and English. He was a resident adviser at West Ambler Johnson dorm. He intended to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology and was a member of Virginia Tech's marching band.

Though neither of these two men, nor anyone killed at Virginia Tech were Masons (that I know of), they were fellow human travelers and fellow Georgians. I offer this Masonic tribute to their too-short but well-traveled lives:
Wherever you may chance to be — Wherever you may roam,
Far away in foreign lands; Or just at Home Sweet Home;
It always gives you pleasure, it makes your heart strings hum
Just to hear the words of cheer, "I see you've traveled some."

When you get a brother's greeting, And he takes you by the hand,
It thrills you with a feeling that you cannot understand,
You feel that bond of brotherhood, that tie that's sure to come
When you hear him say in a friendly way, "I see you've traveled some."

And if you are a stranger, In strange lands all alone
If fate has left you stranded — Dead broke and far from home,
It thrills you — makes you numb, When he says with a grip of fellowship,
"I see you've traveled some."

And when your final summons comes, To take that last long trip,
Adorned with Lambskins Apron White and gems of fellowship —
The Tiler at the Golden Gate, With Square and Level and Plumb
Will size up your pin and say "Walk in,"
"I see you've traveled some."

— Author Unknown
Image #1: Christopher "Jamie" Bishop
Image #2: Ryan Clark

UPDATE: Here is a partial list of those who died yesterday at Virginia Tech. Remember them and their families.
  • Maxine Turner, Vienna, Va., Senior, Chemical Engineering
  • Henry Lee, Roanoke, Va., Freshman, Computer Engineering
  • Matt La Porte, Dumont, N.J., Freshman, University Studies
  • Jamie Bishop, Instructor, Foreign Languages and Literatures (German)
  • G.V. Loganathan, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Juan Ortiz, Graduate Student, Civil Engineering
  • Jarrett Lane, Narrows, Va., Senior, Civil Engineering
  • Ryan Clark, Columbia County, Ga., Senior, Biology, English, Psychology
  • Leslie Sherman, Sophomore, History and International Studies
  • Caitlin Hammaren, Sophomore, International Studies and French
  • Liviu Librescu, Professor, Engineering Science & Mechanics
  • Kevin Granata, Professor, Engineering Science & Mechanics
  • Reema Samaha, Centreville, Va., Freshman
  • Emily Hilscher, Woodville, Va., Freshman, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Equine Science
UPDATE: The Salvation Army brought a truck from Roanoke to serve meals to victims to families, emergency workers and others gathered at the Inn at Virginia Tech. Richard White, a captain of the organization, estimated 500 meals had been served so far, about 10 of which were brought to a grief-sticken family staying upstairs at the Inn at Virginia Tech. "There's not a lot you can say," White said.

If you feel the need to "do something," a contribution to your local Salvation Army might be appropriate.

UPDATE: Bro. Chris Hodapp of Freemasons for Dummies has put faces on some of those killed by posting photographs.

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  1. Widow's Son wrote:

    "If you feel the need to 'do something,' a contribution to your local Salvation Army might be appropriate."

    That would be a nice gesture, but it's too bad the Salvation Army can step up to the plate at a time like this, while the Masonic Lodge(s), which have a LOT more members and a LOT more resources, do absolutely nothing.

    How much better might the world be if men who waste their time in Masonic lodges, reciting lectures and rituals that no one makes any effort to follow, and awarding each other exalted titles and degrees, instead devoted their time, effort, and money in an organization like the Salvation Army, which actually DOES something?

    If you're a member of a Masonic lodge, ask yourself why churches and other civic groups can manage to make meaningful contributions in the real world, but your lodge can't even get its act together enough to decide what they're having for dinner. Do you see any LEADERSHIP qualities in that, or even any history or heritage of leadership?

    Particularly on a Masonic blog, wouldn't it be nice to be able to report that a Masonic group had gotten together to help people in need, and that brother Masons were encouraged to make contributions to that effort?

  2. Thank You Widows Son for the words of support for my fellow Virginians. Even though I do not teach at VT I have felt a kinship to the University since it is in the same state and the faculty killed there served their students well as many of us do. Many of us here in the Commonwealth have an affinity for the Hokies since it produces many fine graduates who remain in the state.

    The cowardly anonymous comment left earlier is a sad reflection of how our nation resorts to finger pointing to avoid responsibility and work. S/he seems to serve self by feeling self righteous a trait many of our Brotherhood might consider and irregular passion.

    The Grand Master of Masons in Virginia has told us to work on "Charity to all mankind" during his tenure in the east. I imagine the horrible tragedy at VT will invoke lodge responses throughout the Commonwealth.

    I will keep you posted.

    May our Supreme Architect continue to us (and our Hokies) his presence, protection and blessing.

  3. David Peronnet said:

    "I imagine the horrible tragedy at VT will invoke lodge responses throughout the Commonwealth. I will keep you posted."

    I hope you hold true to your word about that, and post the results, whatever they are. If they're favorable, perhaps they'll inspire others to follow suit, but if they're unfavorable, perhaps they'll inspire positive institutional changes.

    The murders at Virginia Tech have been billed by the media as "the largest mass shooting in US history," although that's actually an overstatement. It ignores wartime battles and raids, Indian massacres, and the infamous "Mountain Meadows Massacre" of 1857, in which Mormon settlers in Utah shot and killed more than 100 unarmed men, women, and children who were members of a passing wagon train.

    Regardless of its actual "rank" in history, however, the massacre at Virginia Tech was a horrifically significant event, which follows by just 19 months the largest natural disaster in US history -- the devastation of the Gulf Coastal Region by Hurricane Katrina.

    As Katrina struck over a year and a half ago, what did the lodges in your area do to contribute to the relief efforts at that time? Perhaps if you can post a report about that, it'll allow some reasonable insight about how they might react to the more recent tragedy.

    To the credit of Masons everywhere, I know for sure that at least a few lodges did make an effort to contribute to the relief of hurricane victims in one way or another. One lodge commissioned a commemorative coin and donated the proceeds from its sale to lodges that were damaged or destroyed. Another lodge hosted an "open" cookout that raised several thousand dollars, and sent the gross proceeds to Grand Lodges in the affected areas to use as needed in their relief efforts.

    I emailed copies of my "cowardly" remarks above to a few of my Masonic friends, and the only response I've received so far has been positive. A lodge officer who agreed with what I said, forwarded my note to the members of his lodge, and is thereby making an effort to solicit donations. Obviously, it would be nice for that lodge to make a contribution to the Salvation Army, but it would be even nicer if there was a coordinated Masonic effort they could join.

    Does anyone know of such an effort, perhaps organized by the Grand Lodge of Virginia?

  4. One week ago, David Peronnet wrote:

    "The Grand Master of Masons in Virginia has told us to work on 'Charity to all mankind' during his tenure in the east. I imagine the horrible tragedy at VT will invoke lodge responses throughout the Commonwealth. I will keep you posted."

    Yesterday, classes resumed for the first time since the shooting, and multitudes of memorial services have been concluded. Deceased victims have been buried, and many injured victims have been released from hospitals. The Salvation Army's response has almost certainly ended by now, but what about the response from the Masons of Virginia, and indeed, the Masons of the world?

    Despite the official party line offered by David Peronnet — "Charity to all mankind" — what did Freemasons do as a group to even try to help, and why hasn't brother Peronnet followed through with his word that he'd "keep you posted?"

    Admittedly, there isn't anything anyone can do to change what happened. No one can bring the dead back to life, or turn back time to prevent the tragedy before it occurred. But anyone who wanted to, could have made an effort to reach out to the survivors; to extend a hand of friendship and a shoulder to cry on; to comfort the bereaved in their time of distress; to assist with transportation, lodging, or logistics, or even just to send notes of condolence and sympathy to the families of the victims.

    Did any group of Masons try to do any of that?

    Maybe, but I doubt it, and I suspect we won't hear any more from Brother Peronnet, who by now, is probably as ashamed of the "Masonic response" as all Masons should be.

    It's good that Masons can sometimes still experience the spirit of brotherly love that theoretically should prevail in all lodges, but wouldn't it be even better if they could also manage to find a way to make meaningful contributions in the real world?


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