Many of us already know and love the University and Charlottesville, and have been eagerly counting down the days until we return to our friends, classes and community. For some of you, this might be your first time coming to the University and Charlottesville, and I’m sure you’ve been excitedly awaiting the new experiences you will have here. But whether unloading boxes of belongings into a first-year dorm or walking up the steps of an off-Grounds apartment as an upperclassman, we are all about to enter a hurting city. Charlottesville has seen its share of tragedies over the years, but this summer, through several earlier protests culminating in the violence and tragedy of the riots surrounding the “Unite the Right” rally yesterday, old wounds have deepened while new ones were created.
My heart and prayers go out to the families and friends of those who lost their lives and to all of those who were hurt and personally affected by these tragic events. It is critical now, more than ever, that we set our differences aside as we come back to the University and consciously choose to come together as students and as members of the Charlottesville community.
Through unsettling and tragic events it can be especially hard to feel certain of anything. Maybe you're a first year or a transfer student and you're uncertain if you made the right decision to come to the University. Maybe you're a returning student and you're uncertain if things can ever feel the same. Maybe you're uncertain that you will feel safe or that you will ever see a world of more love and harmony than hate.
In truth we can’t be certain of anything beyond our control, but we can choose to take even the smallest steps forward toward healing and wholeness together as one body of equal individuals. We can look out for one another. Don't be afraid to ask the people around you how they are feeling. Don't be afraid to talk to the quiet hall mate, to sit next to someone new in class and start up a conversation, to ask someone if they need any help when you notice something is off. Don't be afraid to make friends with someone you wouldn't normally be friends with. Don't be afraid to share your ideas or to try something new. And never be too busy to notice when you or someone next to you is hurting. We don't have the luxury of isolating ourselves, suppressing the hurt, or questioning our uncertainty during times like these. We absolutely must come together to work towards healing.
I hope that, through tragedies like this one, we can learn to remember that we are all human. We all live and breathe and cry and laugh, and we all need care and attention. As we prepare to return to school into a hurting community, let’s plan to care for each other this year and to do our part to help restore health and life to our community. We can do much more together than we ever could alone.
Emily Kalafian is a third-year College student.