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I was…a sophmore on my way to class

No matter how often I heard, I still couldn’t understand.

I was on my way to class, on the bus when I heard, I was loafing at a neighbor’s when I heard, that all my friends were in the hospital, most of them stunned and loitering in a large unfinished room, a couple in their own rooms, in their own agonized form of waiting.

I kept hearing about the shooting, as every Hokie did, but each time the shock carried as much voltage as before. I was in a jungle gym in Alexandria, I was watching my cousins gambol in spring’s light jackets when I heard. I was at a dinner party with my parents, I was distracted by demure silences in my wake, by a flash of maroon, when I heard. I was walking past a park’s gilt gate, was sleeping in an embassy basement, I was late to work and smoking too many cigarettes when I heard. No matter how often I heard, I still couldn’t understand
On my way home from the bus that’d stopped inexplicably, I thought what most of the students that semester probably thought, that this was Morva Day part II, where the cops would shut down campus to search frantically and futilely for an escapee who was actually crouched three miles away, while we’d sit safely at home or on porches, smiling into our drinks and enjoying a guiltless reprieve from studying. So I went to my neighbor’s with thoughts of cheap beer, which were swiftly overshadowed by CNN, its rumors and their steady, starkly exponential confirmations. Then suddenly I’m slamming car doors and opening doubled ones into a wide-eyed muteness of friends who don’t know what to say. After hearing “something happened” all words fell away, and though I didn’t know what had happened I knew that what I heard, that the message as a whole, carried more meaning than any words I’d ever heard. All that summer and every year since I’ve struggled to understand what I heard that day, even though it’s been, and will be, said often.

Editor’s Note: Conor Bracken has recently been accepted into the University of Houston’s MFA program in Creative Writing. While Richmond will miss his bearded wry tales and rants against Italy, we all wish him the best of luck!