In my inbox today, a note from Tony C. Smith, host of StarShip Sofa:
Michael Bishop says:
I wrote “Vinegar Peace”—in August of 2007—because I had to. Our 35-year-old son, Jamie, died on the morning of April 16, 2007, as one of thirty-two victims of a disturbed shooter on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Jamie, an accomplished digital artist who did lovely covers for four or five of my books, was holding forth in Room 2007 of Norris Hall in his German class more than two hours after his eventual murderer had slain two students in a dormitory on another part of campus. The administration failed to issue a warning—a warning that might well have saved many lives—in a timely fashion. However, some of its members secured their own offices and notified their own family members of this initial event; and so the worst school shooting in the history of the United States claimed our son, four other faculty members (including a man, Dr Librescu, who had survived the Holocaust and who held a table against his classroom door until all own students could escape), four of Jamie’s students, and twenty-one other young people in Norris Hall, not to mention the first two victims in West Ambler-Johnston dorm. Another twenty-eight students were wounded by bullets or injured leaping from upper-story windows. Some of these young people will live with their injuries the rest of their lives.
All of the administrators, with the exception of a woman who later died of a stroke or a heart attack (a death that my wife and I can’t help but attribute partially to the stress of living with the mistakes of the President and the other Policy Group members), remain in their positions. So much for accountability, and so much for justice.
In any case, “Vinegar Peace” grew from this disaster and from a grief that I can’t imagine ever laying totally aside. Jeri and I mourn Jamie’s loss every day in some private way, and we think continually of all the other parents and loved ones of the slain and injured who will carry a similar burden with them until they die. We think, too, of the parents and loved ones of the dead and wounded from the United States’s optional war in Iraq, who long for their dead and who pray for their injured with an intensity not a whit different from our own. How ironic that our son died on American soil. How sad the wasted potential and disfigured lives resulting from violence everywhere. And forgive me the inadequacy of these remarks. Clearly, I wrote a story because I could not address either my outrage or my grief in any other way.
StarShipSofa is very honoured and humbled to be allowed to bring this story to a wider audience. I know I speak for the SF community when I say our hearts and prayers go out to Mike and Jeri and all the families who have to live with this grief every day.