Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Later on this page you'll find an op-ed article that I wrote for the Washington Post today.

This is the first time I've written anything for the post. It started out as a blog entry, but long about midnight, it turned into something else. At 1 a.m., I sent it in through the post's web site, and less than 24 hours later, there it was. I mentioned that I've felt impotent not being a part of the team of people who are reporting on the hell at Virginia Tech. So being able to contribute this one small piece to the dialogue means a whole lot to me.

One thing that Autumn Brewington, the Post's assistant editorial director, asked me last night (or, okay, earlier tonight) was whether I had any interests in the town of Blacksburg that she should know about. It was a relevant question, and I told her no. I don't work for the town. I don't work for the university. I don't work for the Chamber of Commerce.

But do I have a personal stake or gain in defending my hometown, and in letting people know that it's more than a name, more than a massacre?

Well, yeah.

We all do, right?

Anyway, the article follows:
My Town's Pain
By Madelyn Rosenberg
Washington Post
Wednesday, April 18, 2007; A23

I wasn't born in Blacksburg, Va., but I lived there most of my life. If my husband hadn't dragged me to a bigger city -- "where something actually happens and restaurants serve more than hamburgers" -- I'd be there still.
Your home town defines you. It helps make you what you are. Now that this thing, this massacre, has defined my home town, I wonder if my definition is going to change, too.
Last August, when a gunman committed a double murder in Blacksburg, people said the town had lost its innocence. Ridiculous, hyperbolic swill, I thought. Transplants. Commentators. What did they know? It was awful, yes, especially for the families of the people killed. It would scar the town. But the scar would fade.
What happened in Blacksburg this week will not fade.
I feel for the families whose loved ones died. I feel for the students who eventually will have to go back to Norris Hall and for the professors who will have to teach as if life just goes on. I feel for the staff members who will have to paint those once-white walls.
And I feel for the town.
When I heard the first news reports, I wanted to get in my car and drive home. It was as if I needed to visit an ailing relative, to tell her one more time that I loved her. But my kids had school, and my husband had work; I settled for e-mails and phone calls to loved ones.
My last memory of Blacksburg, then, is from two weeks ago: redbuds bursting along the highway and in my mother's front yard. My children watching as the painted turtles sunbathed at Pandapas Pond. The fresh-mowed grass, filled with the promise of spring.
I smiled a lot and ate chicken and lentils at a new Ethiopian restaurant and marveled at the changes. It is law in a real home town that its children forever marvel at its changes. That is why I can walk along Main Street and still be shocked that the arcade where I played Caterpillar and flirted with Tim Harrison is now a college bookstore.
But no one who is thinking about Blacksburg now is thinking about the redbuds.
The gray stone of the campus buildings conjures the gray stone of a cemetery, and the maroon of a college sweatshirt is the color of dried blood.
My inclination is to write an obituary, though my home town isn't dead. It is survived by a lot of friendly, caring people.
And if they can survive, the town can survive, too, even as people talk about death. Even as people across the country watch TV and see someone else's town, someone else's school.
Say what you will about the end of innocence. But remember that just the other day, Blacksburg was a beautiful small town in America. Like yours.
Madelyn Rosenberg is a freelance writer in Arlington.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


A lot of things made me cry on Monday, but I thought I'd list a few of the things that made me smile.

The thougt of Tom's birthday meal at India Palace
Karina's "Yippee-i-o" in her new cowboy hat
Ornette Coleman's Pulitzer

A short list, I suppose. It was that kind of day.

Monday, April 16, 2007

And now there are


My mom got home to Blacksburg a few minutes ago and therefore already knows everything the newspapers have reported, and then some.

It could have happened anywhere, I guess. The thing is, it didn't.


Blacksburg as I knew it

I thought (arrogantly) since I was on the subject of Blacksburg that I'd link to an essay I wrote about it in 2000, the year I moved away.

virginia tech

I was going to spend today writing about Austin, Tx., The Broken Spoke, Willem Dafoe, Dazed and Confused and Maria's Taco Xpress. But I waited too long. I should have started writing the second I returned from my trip, a weekend away from the kids, a weekend spent holding a hand that was not sticky with chocolate. Because when I finally sat down at my computer, ready to write, I learned that my hometown of Blacksburg, Va. (unofficial slogan: Blacksburg, Va., An Easy Place to Live) had been ripped apart by a shooting I still can't process.
I check CNN whenever the kids are out of the room.
One dead.
Then seven.
Then 20.
Then 21.
I have the urge to jump in my car and drive home, to start stringing for my old newspaper. I feel impotent when I'm not reporting. And reporting my feelings doesn't count. And then I think: maybe silence is better. Maybe silence is really the only thing that can allow you to feel the enormity of something like this. Though it doesn't do jack to help you understand it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

kia addendum

We went downtown with our neighbors yesterday in an SUV that's bigger than my daughter's bedroom. My son checked out the built-in DVD player. "Mommy!" he said. "Look! They have a Kia Sedona."
(For the record, it wasn't a Kia. It was a Yukon XL.)

Monday, April 9, 2007

a short rant

Almost daily, we're assaulted by new marketing campaigns created especially for my kids. Last month, for instance, we taped their favorite TV show, "The Backyardigans," off of Nickelodean instead of off of their commercial-free Noggin. Instead of talking about the new episode (they'd seen "Knights are Brave and Strong about 20 times), my son came upstairs and asked for a Kia Sedona.
"Why do you want one of those?" I asked him.
"It has lots of safety features," he said. "AND it has a DVD player." I know it's not quite fair to blame a car for loss of innocence, but suffice it to say, our family will never own a Kia Sedona. And we're going back to taping our second-run shows off of Noggin (which has this horror-show of a slogan: "It's Like Preschool On TV!" I'll save that rant for later.)

Assault No. 2 My mom and I took the kids shopping this weekend in search of a suit for my cousin's wedding. We checked Once Upon a Child first, but apparently, nobody dresses up in Blacksburg, Va. So we checked J.C. Penney We didn't find a suit. But the kids did discover T-shirts, bright red, with a dinosaur plastered across the chest. It wasn't the dinosaur that interested them, so much as the trains and remote-control trucks that were encased in plastic and hung over the hangers. Cost: $17 bucks. It's probably a losing battle, but suppose I'll try boycotting J.C. Penney for awhile, too. I'm not a huge fan of Raffi's music, but I do appreciate his involvement in the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood ( It's time to get radical. Past time.

organizing my life

I'm not so good at organization. Witness: my bedroom. The countertops. The bookshelves. But this morning I had a lot of appointments to make and people to contact. My usual filing and procrastination systems were just not options.
I wrote down all of the numbers I needed to dial last night. At 8 a.m., I began making calls. By 8:20 a.m. I had:
A dentist appointment
An appointment for an X-ray (which is code for mammogram, but I'm still not comfortable letting it all hang out on a blog. So to speak.)
An appointment with the pest control people
The confirmation that my son doesn't really need a second TB test
The dollar amount that we paid in taxes on our two automobiles last year (That would be $48)

This is the most I've accomplished in one morning since before I had kids. I'm thinking of writing Heloise. My letter would also include a hint to making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and French toast without destroying the bread. (In case you wondered: The bread should be frozen.)