Renetta Garrison Tull - Online

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If you're looking for the website for the PROMISE program, please visit: http://www.umbc.edu/promise.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Va. Tech Thoughts pt. 2, An Administrator's View

Thanks to friends and family who called/emailed to see how I was doing regarding the Va. Tech situation. I'm not at Va. Tech, and it's hard to even imagine the pain that everyone is feeling. From an administrator's point of view, I know from experience that it's hard to deal with tragic events on campus. I've had to deal with illnesses and even death, working with police, visiting students in the hospital, going to and even organizing campus memorials or information sessions. I've had my share of talking to family members left behind, helping students to cope, offering a shoulder to cry on. The interesting thing is that in all of this, sometimes I'm really nervous or scared,and I really and truly have to rely on God -- his strength and wisdom to help me make critical decisions and stay strong for the sake of the masses.

Many of you know that one of the most difficult situations in my life was losing one of my students, Jessica Soto Perez. I was on my way home after a meeting with grad students when two other students called my cell phone and told me that I had to come back to campus immediately. It's still painful to recall the details, the scene, to re-visit the emotions. I remember having to remain composed, deal with police, calm others, get information, make identifications, etc. There was no one else around, the other deans weren't on campus that day, plus it was after 4:30. I was the only administrative person around. I didn't go home until late that night, I watched the news still not really believing it even though I had been there.

That night was filled with making phone calls, the next days were excruciating. Still not believing what had happened, still not believing that such a shining star was gone from the earth. After all, less than 24 hours before, she was in my office, reminding me to recommend her for a conference, talking about her beloved Puerto Rico. Less than 24 hours before, she'd said good-bye with a hug and kiss on the cheek -- she always did that, all of my students from PR do. That day, the day after there were meetings, press conferences, student forums, etc. Then there was meeting the family, talking to them, not wanting to face them, not wanting to even imagine their sorrow.

To bring this around to a positive point, I think that it's interesting to see where we are now. Jessica would have been SO proud of all of her friends! Several of them (many in the pictures on the website below) have since finished their Ph.D.s, some of teaching in the Baltimore schools, some are now married. And me? I promised Jessica's Mother, family and professors at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez that I would continue to work to make sure that students from PR are able to reach their goal of obtaining the Ph.D.

It's been a few years now, that happened in 2004. Jessica's family has been so wonderful. My husband and I go to visit them when we have meetings in Puerto Rico, and they treat us like family. My Spanish is a little bit better, though I still have a long way to go. I've learned even more about God's peace -- that peace that passes all understanding. Remember that? It's in Phillipians 4:7!
Here is the whole chapter, there's so much to hold onto!
Phillipians Chapter 4

So, in the wake of Va. Tech., my heart goes out to all of those left behind to deal with the aftermath. May this tragic event take a turn, turn what was meant for evil into something good. Something good that will go far beyond the reach of Blacksburg, VA. I'm not sure what those good things will be, but with all of the prayers that are being said, with all of the love that is being shown on that campus, something is bound to happen! The prayers of the righteous avail much (James 5:16b), whole chapter NIV: James Chapter 5

I know that experiencing the loss of one student made a huge difference in my life, and her life's legacy has impacted tremendous numbers of students. There is a Bridge Fund in her name, a service award in her name, and we give her tribute annually so that every new PROMISE student knows her legacy.

To Mami Luci and the Soto Perez family: Que Dios te bendiga!
To all of the friends, family, campus community at Va. Tech: God Bless You!

To read more about Jessica, see her tribute webpage:
http://www.umbc.edu/promise/pages/JessicaMemories.htm

3 comments:

DVell Garrison said...

Greetings! As I respond to these thoughts, I am reminded that less than 5 miles away, a funeral service is concluding for one of the victims in last week’s Virginia Tech massacre. My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to all the victim’s families and to the family of the assailant. All kinds of emotions surface which include anger, rage, grief and sadness. And then, there's my reaction to question God. Yes....I said it. I do question God, and I think it's ok to do so. I contend that true relationship should not be a one-sided affair. For me, questioning God allows me to form a deeper relationship with Him, because He is always faithful to answer my call. In this case, God continues to remind me that He is Sovereign, and that even in the midst of this tragedy, His mercy endures. Indeed, the 32 (+1) lives lost could have easily numbered 64, or 128, and so on, but I thank God that He declared that the destruction Cho caused at Virginia Tech was enough.

When destruction of this magnitude rears its ugly head, it is difficult for us to accept what God allows. But when we acknowledge that our God’s ways and thoughts are so much higher than our own ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55: 8-9), we transform our minds into a space of God’s excellent greatness. In this space, the beauty of His Holiness is so perfect that even if we only dwell on His awesomeness for a few seconds, we are instantly comforted. Imagine then the long lasting comfort God will give us when we keep our minds stayed on Him.

As we seek God during this time, we humble ourselves, knowing that He will heal all those affected by the Virginia Tech tragedy and indeed, heal our land.

judithkp said...

I remember when Jessica died tragically, and having to give a eulogy at the memorial service. At that time I shared that Jesus knows how it felt to be betrayed by his closest friend, and that he was killed by those he love. We don't know why God allowed the massacre at VA Tech happen, but we do know that Jesus knows the pain. And Jesus wept (John 11:35). And He promises eternal life to those who have Him.

Anonymous said...

An Answered Prayer

I asked for strength,
And God gave me difficulties to make me strong;

I asked for wisdom,
And God gave me problems to learn to solve;

I asked for prosperity,
And God gave me brain and brawn to work;

I asked for courage,
And God gave me dangers to overcome;

I asked for love,
And God gave me people to help;

I asked for favours,
And God gave me opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted - I received everything I needed.

My prayer has been answered!