A year ago, today, the first thing in the morning, (PST) I turned on my laptop to discover that there were nearly a dozen students dead at my daughter’s school, Virginia Tech. I immediately called her cell, which went to voice mail.
Virginia Tech Logo - fabric interpretation by Angelina Kendra
During the next two-and-a-half hours, as the death toll slowly rose, I had the opportunity to do some of the deepest spiritual work of my life. I had to bring myself to the place, rich in faith, belief and understanding, that my daughter was absolutely OK—whether she was still the possessor of a body, or not.
A foundation for my journey had been built by previous family deaths, a strong, quantum, spiritual perspective, and a personal near death experience. Still, it took an energetic dance to move myself to that place of serenity. But I got there.
Nevertheless, it was a relief to get her return call. She had been in class on the other side of the campus. They had known little of the news that was stunning the world, until the text messages started coming in.
As a Californian, too far from my daughter for a hug, I jumped into making her a Hokie Comfort quilt. Then I made a quilted wallhanging for the school, with images of hands reaching out in comfort, sprinkled with hearts to represent the love being poured out to the school.
The author and the Hokie Comfort quilt made for her daughter. Photo: Tracy Locke
Both quilts were on exhibit at Quilt Market in Salt Lake City two weeks later, as a way to raise awareness for the Hokie Memorial Fund.  Currently, the Hugs for Hokies segment which shows these quilts is airing on Quilters TV. 
I wasn’t the only one to pour feelings of support into stitches. Angelina Kendra, a Virginia Tech alumni in Connecticut, started a Hokie quilt project on myspace that grew to include contributions of quilt blocks from all over the world, and a total, so far, of 45 quilts.  It began with quilts specifically intended for the families of the 33 dead, and has grown toward 60, to include the 27 physically injured.
One of Angelina's quilt assembly nights
And while I do not underestimate the impact of physical injuries, the number of injured in spirit includes not only those at the university, but across the nation and around the world.
Today, most references are made to the “32” dead, (a number which specifically excludes the gunman.) However, at the time, my daughter told me that the wave of emotion on campus included him as one of the victims, as well. My quilt included thirty-three rhinestones, representing each one of the fallen Hokies, and Angelina’s project includes a quilt for the gunman, too. Some quilters contributed quilt blocks that they specifically requested be included in that quilt.
There is no doubt that the gunman had been failed by society. The Peace Alliance notes that, “Homicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24.” Roots of this violence begin early: “Ninety percent of fourth through eighth graders report being victims of bullying at some point during their school years, and 15 percent of students are classified as either bullies or long-term victims of bullies.” The Virginia Tech gunman was one of this 15 percent, bullied for a lifetime.
According to Dennis Kucinich, (D-OH), author of HR 808, The Department of Peace and Nonviolence Act would enable the U.S. to work more effectively toward the elimination of the root causes of violence. Domestically, the Department of Peace and Nonviolence would be involved in prevention of spousal abuse, child abuse, drug and alcohol-related violence, gang violence, and mistreatment of the elderly. An Office of Peace Education would work with America’s teachers in the development and implementation of curricula designed to provide students of all ages with mediation and conflict resolution skills.
Over 200 years ago, George Washington said that our nation needed a Department of Peace to balance a Department of War. If this department had been part of our government, and had done its job, the root causes for the shootings at places like Columbine and Virginia Tech might well have been nipped in the bud, averting the final outcomes.
H.R. 808 has 68 co-sponsors, and has been endorsed by dozens of organizations including: Amnesty International, Tikkun, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Veterans for Peace, and the National Organization for Women.
1 | 2