Families Affected by Virginia Tech Shooting Teach Us All a Valuable Lesson

police tapeOne of the hardest things to teach little kids is the meaning of "I'm sorry." How it's always important to apologize because it shows you are nice, care for the person you hurt, and just made a mistake -- but at the same time, it doesn't simply fix the problem or undo the bad thing you did, you still have to take responsibility for it. Broken down like that, an apology is a tough concept for adults, and probably head-spinning for the wife and children of Virginia Tech police officer Deriek Crouse, who was gunned down last week. The family of Ross Truett Ashley, the 22-year-old who shot and killed the 39-year-old officer last week before committing suicide, has apologized to the Crouse family for what their son did. Apologizing was the appropriate, humane, and right thing to do, even if they did not pull the trigger or have any control over Ashley's actions.


But this is not a broken toy or a bad insult. This is a life and a family destroyed, forever. What does Crouse's wife and kids even begin to do with an apology like that?

There are so many details -- yet to be forthcoming -- that are shocking and sad about this story, but the fact that Crouse was also a dad with five little kids ages 10 to 18 may be the most devastating of all. No, saying "I'm sorry" is not going to bring Crouse back to his family, but it does do something -- it takes down walls by saying there are no sides here. Both families suffered a loss and are suffering, questioning, and mourning. There's really nothing more to do but empathize and support them all, which is what they all need most right now.

Many people today, politicians and celebrities especially, underestimate the power of apologies. Maybe they think it's just an old-fashioned notion or a sign of weakness. Truth is, if people would apologize more, and mean it, our world would be a much better place. Apologies have the power of endearing you to the most hated person, even making you feel sorry for them a little bit. Imagine if Jerry Sandusky, assuming he is guilty, had apologized immediately after being arrested for his child abuse crimes. It would be an entirely different case right now and chances are we would look at him a little differently.

The family of Officer Crouse is probably still in a state of disbelief. They are probably feeling not one emotion but a million: anger, sadness, shock, bewilderment ... It's probably difficult to process anything, and nothing anyone can say or do will ever fully take that pain away. But hearing these simple words from the Ashley family, relayed through the Associated Press on Sunday, definitely shaped the way I think about them, their son, and this whole horrible situation. Maybe they will make a microscopically positive bit of difference to the Crouse family, too, someday, somehow ...

The Ashley family would like to offer their condolences to the family of Officer Crouse. Officer Crouse and his family are in their prayers.

Was the family right to apologize? Do you think people need to apologize more?


Image via CarbonNYC/Flickr

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