The truth about Purdue’s shooting tragedy [one year later]

Exactly one year ago, things changed at Purdue University. Today, I wonder just how lasting that change really was. Do people still remember? Do they still mourn? Does the shocking reality of what happened on January 21, 2014 still run as high, long, wide, and deep as it did in those first days? For a few, no doubt yes. For most, assuredly no. The daily realities of life have settled into the space where the shock once was. That’s to be expected. Else how would life carry on?

But there is one reality that must not be forgotten – one reality that can begin to make sense of last year’s pain – one reality running so much higher and longer and wider and deeper than any other that we dare not forget it. (The following post was first published January 21, 2014.)

Purdue Memorial Mall, 1-21-2014 (Photo: CKirgiss)

It was sunny today at Purdue. Sunny and snowy. Sunny and snowy and freezing. Sunny and snowy and freezing and beautiful. Which is to say, it was a day pretty much like every other wintry day on campus the past two weeks.

Except that it wasn’t.

At 11:00 a.m. when I walked across Memorial Mall, I was struck by the peaceful stillness. By some footprints in the snow. By a brilliant sky. By the hushed atmosphere. Even on this typically busy, bustling day at a Big 10 campus, there was a measurable sense of calm and comfort. Things were much as they should be.

Except that they weren’t.

At noon when I walked back across Memorial Mall, nothing had changed. Not visibly, anyway. There were the footprints. There was the brilliant sky. There was the hushed atmosphere. There was the sense of peaceful stillness amidst the busy, bustling crowd.

And then, ripping through the stillness, slashing through the peace, there was an emergency siren. Screeching. Wailing. Shrieking. On and on and on and on. And the unexpected text message: “Shooting reported on campus. Bldg Electrical Engineering; Avoid area; Shelter in place.”

What place is this? Where am I? Have I stepped into another time and place? Because, you see, these things do not happen here. In other places, perhaps. But not here.

Except when they do.

It has been a devastating day. Someone’s son has died. Someone else’s son has killed. Both families are forever changed. It is one more bitter reminder that we live in a very broken world (all of it), among very broken people (all of us).

That’s right – all of us. We are all broken. Entirely, very, thoroughly, quite broken. That truth manifests itself in different ways, to different degrees, and not just in the midst of tragedy. It is a truth easier to ignore than acknowledge, easier to deny than accept, easier to protest than admit. Nonetheless, we are all – each and every one of us – in need of a Savior who loves, forgives, and transforms broken people.

Which he does.

The sun shone brightly today on a very dark and desperate place. Can you see it there, powerful and radiant?

Electrical Engineering Building, Purdue University, 1-21-2014 (Photo: CKirgiss)

And tonight, the light of thousands shone brightly on a very sad and wounded place. Can you see it there, brave and hopeful?

Candlelight Vigil, Purdue University, 2-21-2014 (Photo: Reddit User 8bitremixguy,

Both lights – sun by day and candle by night – are glorious, comforting, indescribably beautiful.

But they are nothing – absolutely nothing – when compared to the one light that really matters, the one light that is truth, the one light that is life, the one light that is love, the one light that is hope, the one light that saves.

“I am the light of the world.” The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not – and will not ever – overcome it.

Oh, sweet Jesus – we need your love, your compassion, your grace, your humility. Mostly, we need You. Each and every day. Today (and every other day, in truth) is a fresh reminder of this.

[My continued thoughts, written on the third day – January 23, 2014 – are here.]

28 thoughts on “The truth about Purdue’s shooting tragedy [one year later]

  1. Dietrich Deech Kirk January 22, 2014 / 11:24 am

    Crystal – your community is in CYMT’s prayers. May God surround all those who have been affected and who’s peaceful world has been shattered. May Christ who puts pieces back together and makes things whole be at work at Purdue.

    • ckirgiss January 22, 2014 / 11:38 am

      Deech – Thank you. As with so many events like this, its effects are surprisingly far-reaching. Though only a handful of the Purdue population was near the building, and even fewer were actually in the classroom, in all the confusion and lack of information, it seemed to be happening to us all. (Except that it wasn’t.) The enormous turnout at the candlelight vigil last night speaks to that. Everyone craves being part of a community, especially one that has a sense of purpose and significance, and especially in a time of loss and suffering – the true meaning of “passion.” Indeed. That craving speaks to something much deeper, doesn’t it? And I do so hope that the sense of purpose and significance students felt last night somehow leads to something much more lasting, much more meaningful, and much more True.

  2. eplack January 22, 2014 / 1:40 pm

    Reblogged this on Boilermaker & Businessmaker and commented:
    I still cannot find the words to describe how frightening and heartbreaking yesterday was. I am so grateful that my friends are okay and my heart goes out to the victim, Andrew Boldt, and the families of all those involved.

    • ckirgiss January 22, 2014 / 1:47 pm

      Elaine – I hope that you are finding peace and comfort today. There is so much to mourn, and at the same time so much to be thankful for.

  3. Abbie @ Love You So Blog January 22, 2014 / 1:45 pm

    Absolutely true. Purdue is my second home and it was such a heartbreaking moment. Thank you so much for posting this!

  4. ckirgiss January 22, 2014 / 1:49 pm

    Abbie – Purdue is still your second home. It’s a wonderful second home. But it is a second home with a deep wound – a wound that will require community and hope and unexpected joy.

  5. John Pavlick January 22, 2014 / 3:29 pm

    “a Savior who loves…people”

    Andrew’s “Savior” must have loved him *so* much that he…let Andrew die at the hands of a gunman. It seems to me as though very little “saving” was actually done here.

    • ckirgiss January 22, 2014 / 4:32 pm

      John – I assume you knew Andrew, and if so, I am so very sad for what you and everyone else who loved him is experiencing right now. Christ’s promise is not that he would “save” us from the pain and suffering of life on earth, if by “save” you mean “never let anything bad happen to me or those I love”. The only way to do that would be for Him to absolutely and thoroughly control the thoughts and actions of each and every person, each and every moment – not just the actions of those we think should be controlled (e.g. the ‘bad’ people), but also your actions and my actions (because we all, at one time or another, have done/thought/said something we ought not) and of course that’s not what any of us wants when we say “If there were a God He would not let the world be such a terrible place.” Such control is not love. And being controlled in that way would not be life. Based on what scripture says about God’s nature, He abhors death, in all forms. But to eliminate it (and pain and suffering and sorrow) from our earthly experience would also be to eliminate choice and free will. As long as humanity exists, there will be tragedy and suffering and heartache – not because of God but because of humanity. It is astounding that God would have even considered entering our world as a human and suffering on our behalf so that we could know him and experience real life because certainly there is nothing that any of us has done that would warrant such a gift. It would seem more logical for Him to have looked at the mess we made and left us to our own devices. Christ’s promise of real life amidst sadness, real joy amidst suffering, and real love amidst evil is breathtaking, undeserved, and very real. It does not eliminate evil. It does not eradicate pain. Rather, it smashes through it all and makes space to live life as it was meant to be lived, and to hope expectantly for life that is to come.

  6. Debby January 22, 2014 / 4:07 pm

    What beautiful & honest words about the unspeakable on our peaceful campus. I am an Alum & mother to a current student. I was never so proud & excited that my son wanted to be a Boilermaker. We live within 15 miles of campus so I was also comforted that he would be close. I knew he would have the same safe & comfortable. …home as I did. But yesterday, those 15 miles felt like the other side of the world. There is something special about that place, even in tragedy. Seeing so many Boilers huddled together last night, comforting each other comforted me as a parent. Our Purdue will survive to be stronger & with God, it will again be that peaceful haven. God Bless Andrew’s family & friends. God Bless Cody’s also as they try to understand why. As always, God Bless our campus.God Bless our Boilermaker family!

    • ckirgiss January 22, 2014 / 4:46 pm

      Debby – I am a mother of sons, one of whom was on campus yesterday, so my thoughts have repeatedly been focused on both mothers in this situation who no doubt are grieving in ways I cannot begin to imagine. Like you, I was moved by the images last night, all of which clearly showed the inherent craving we all have for caring and compassionate community. The challenge for all of us is to move beyond simply desiring such community in a given moment to creating and preserving it. I’m confident there are many in the Purdue family who will work hard to make this happen.

  7. RJ January 22, 2014 / 5:20 pm

    A friend of mine graduated from Purdue last year. He posted this on my wall today and told me I’d like it- he was correct. You’re an amazing writer.

    May God bless everyone affected yesterday. To think that there can really be such evil so close to home.. it’s terrifying.

    Great post.

    • ckirgiss January 22, 2014 / 5:33 pm

      RJ – thanks for this very kind note. I appreciate it. You are right about yesterday being terrifying for many in the Purdue and surrounding community. I hope the fear is quickly replaced by stronger things – compassion, wisdom, friendship – and that those things are not quickly forgotten or set aside as people get back into the rhythm of daily life. If that happens, then this will be an even more tragic event than it already is.

      • RJ January 22, 2014 / 5:36 pm

        I’m an IU student currently, and I can tell you that even your rivals are sending you love. Prayers to you!

  8. Dot January 22, 2014 / 7:45 pm

    As a mother of a daughter who died when she was 16 years old, my heart joins Andrew’s mother’s heart and Cody’s mother’s heart.

    • ckirgiss January 22, 2014 / 8:41 pm

      Dot – Though I don’t know you, and cannot possibly understand what you have experienced, my heart joins with yours. I imagine that every mother (and father) is feeling that way right now.

  9. Val W January 22, 2014 / 8:32 pm

    Thank you. You have provided an opportunity through this for us to understand our emotions, to process them, and to move forward, keeping our eyes on Jesus. I am grateful.

    • ckirgiss January 22, 2014 / 8:45 pm

      Thank you for these kind words. People are going to process this in so many different ways – for me, the process is usually centered around writing it out while keeping my eyes on the only thing that is trustworthy and unchanging. It has been a sad day, to be sure. But there is also hope and joy and compassion aplenty.

  10. explaineen January 22, 2014 / 9:33 pm

    Reblogged this on explaiNeen and commented:
    I’ve not been able to put into words the events if yesterday. Maybe soon I will be able to share my own thoughts and feelings. For now, I share wonderful words by a wonderful woman.

  11. explaineen January 22, 2014 / 9:35 pm

    Crystal, thanks for sharing. I’ve re-blogged this so it can reach more people. My heart goes out to those directly involved and to the rest of the Purdue family as we all process the events of yesterday.

    Janeen 🙂

    • ckirgiss January 23, 2014 / 12:41 am

      Janeen – like you, my heart goes out to, and aches for, those involved. My thoughts are especially with the mothers who are experiencing something I cannot even begin to imagine.

  12. debbie francis January 22, 2014 / 11:32 pm

    So very sad this has happened, our God is of love, he loves each and everyone of us so deeply, prayers going out to the parents and family of both individuals, the candle light service showed me that there are very loving and caring people at Purdue, and I know that Purdue will bounce back even stronger than before. Pray for each other this is the key to getting through this. May GOD BLESS HOU ALL!

    • ckirgiss January 23, 2014 / 12:37 am

      Debbie – you are right: there are many loving and caring people in this community. Even in the midst of confusion and sadness, it’s quite a wonderful thing to behold.

  13. quirkyjazz January 23, 2014 / 10:45 am

    Prayers are surrounding you and the Purdue campus community. Thank you for being light and salt in the world.

    • ckirgiss January 23, 2014 / 12:08 pm

      Thank you for these words, thank you for prayers for the Purdue community, and thank you, too, for being salt and light in a world that desperately needs it.

  14. Brad January 23, 2014 / 1:22 pm

    Wow. That’s all I can say. Having actually been on campus Saturday night, walking along with students to and from Mackey Arena, and then hearing this on the news… sadness doesn’t begin to truly describe what I felt for the family of the victim, the shooter, and the community of Purdue University. With that being said, you have completely captured the essence of what can pull that community through this dark and tragic time back into lighter days. So real, so true, and so gracefully written. Thank you for sharing this. I posted to a small group I lead of men, one of them pointed out the responses you have made in your comments. Christ’s love truly does pour from your word’s and it is quite evident you are filled with the Holy Spirit. Praying for you, for Purdue, and for the families involved. Keep writing, you are a blessing to people you’ve never even met.

    • ckirgiss January 23, 2014 / 1:52 pm

      I can’t even begin to say how much your words mean. Truly. More importantly, I can’t even begin to understand how much your sincere prayers mean to this community – in ways that many people may not ever realize. Death is always, always, always a tragedy. Thankfully, knowing that the God of life and love has invaded this tragic world and embraced our tragic lives gives reason for hope and joy. What a beautiful and breathtaking irony.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s