The horror of the Virginia Tech story is going to be with us for a while. I got an e-mail from J tonight. I remembered right. He lived in West Ambler Johnson dorm for two years.

All his family’s friends who are at VT now are okay. He was a third-generation VT student, so this is personal and awful for his family. They’ve walked those paths, attended class in that building, slept in that dorm. They won’t be the same.

But this is awful, too. Five times as many people as died at VT on Monday died in Baghdad on Wednesday. They were normal people, shopping in the market, just going about their lives. And suddenly all hell broke loose, explosions ripped through the air, and for 158 families, nothing will ever be the same again.

We see our world what one philosopher called the “parochialism of the present.” We see our own circumstances as the most significant thing that’s happened in the world, the worst disaster of its type in American history, the moment that changed us forever.

For those who directly had to endure the worst day they’ll likely ever see, there’s no question that those moments changed them forever. I don’t mean to diminish the tragedy by talking about Iraq. What happened in Blacksburg is awful. Period.

But, I keep thinking about Nikki Giovanni’s words. Every human life–whether at a college in southwest Virginia or in a war zone in the desert or in a destroyed village in an African jungle–every single life is precious.

As she put it so eloquently, no one–no one–deserves a tragedy.

Laura Seay is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Austin and member of First Baptist Church in Austin. This column appeared originally in her blog.

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