Letter to the editor


Last Monday, 33 lives were siphoned off the face of the Earth, including the troubled shooter who apparently took his own life after unloading on 32 other people on the campus of Virginia Tech University. Sitting in a rather quaint office in downtown Los Angeles, I felt shocked and paralyzed for most of that day, my mind racing from asking why this happened, why I care, and what I would’ve done if I was one of those students who saw a man spraying gunfire from two pistols. Would I run and hide, jump out of the window like some of the students or what?

I’m not sure. But then, I’ve been one of the lucky few who death doesn’t want to go near. I battled death in my mind in my teens nearly daily, playing out various scenarios of how I would meet my demise. Or, it could be because I cut my path into journalism thinking that one day I’d get the prestigious assignment of covering a war. I knew the inherent dangers full well, and was willing to test my gangsta (sic). I haven’t had the chance to do it and I don’t intend to if I can avoid it now, because, frankly, I am a father and my daughter needs me more than the thrill of dodging bullets or mortar attacks does.

Words, both written and spoken, have been proven to be ample artillery to deal with the war going on right here, in this country. While the pundits will descend on the Virginia Tech. Massacre by the hundreds if not thousands, I’m going to be more resolute in sharpening my words to precision. At my job today, I was writing a story on commercial real estate development in central California when I decided to take a break. That break didn’t come in the form of coffee or lunch. Instead, I opened up a word processor in Google and typed out a sincere letter to my daughter’s mother, spelling out my grievances with her self-destructive behavior and my own shortcomings in dealing with it.

Death is a muthafucka (sic). Not to take away anything from the 33 people who perished on April 16 at, ironically, an institution of higher learning, but I know death more intimately. It’s not that I care to talk about it, and frankly, I rarely do. There was a friend of mine in high school with whom I shared a bond that spanned literature, poetry and Hip-Hop. Eric Justin Grant was his name and he would become president of his high school class one year before the millennium. Eric was a pretty muthafucka (sic), but I was one of the few to whom he shared his substantive side. I remember when he and I recited our favorite poems before our English class: I did the verses from Nas’ “I Gave You Power” and he did Tupac’s “Dear Mama.”

Those poems said something about us that only layers of music and poetry can say, and I’m still trying to figure it out what it all meant. Before I turned 11, I read a book by Jules Verne called “The Children of Captain Grant.” By some strange happenstance, I now believe that Eric was indeed the captain – in his death. While he was alive, he lived without fear, mackin’ (sic) to women up and down downtown L.A. streets that we rummaged between classes. I transferred high schools and never spoke with him again, because I was an insecure introvert and he was the exact opposite. I am now left to wonder what I was doing at the very moment that he was murdered somewhere in South L.A. in March 2000.

Death is a muthafucka (sic). As in, Eric’s death probably fucked up his mom’s life. Losing a child to violence is almost unthinkable. It’s one of those things that you can’t sympathize or empathize with someone. The only thing you can really do is embrace and attempt to study it. Leaving it alone isn’t what’s needed. In my case, Eric’s death changed my life because I turned the emotional burden that just thinking of his death has exacted on me into Hip-Hop journalism. I felt like I needed to live out what his soul wanted to live.

I’ll go ahead and say it right here and now: the souls of the 33 people who perished today are still with us, and they won’t leave. It’s up to each and every individual that reads these very words to grasp to understand each of those lives.

Death might be the end but it can also be the awakening.

Slav Kandyba Former Daily Sundial Editor-in-Chief