A Silent Blogosphere Remembers the Virginia Tech Victims

Today, one man asked for a day of silence in the blogosphere. It has been dubbed One Day Blog Silence. Steli Efti, a 24-year-old high school principal, created OneDayBlogSilence.com in response to the Virginia Tech shootings on April 16.

The blogosphere’s response – uproar.

The very idea of blogging is about not being silent. It is a medium meant to release one’s feelings, to discuss the happenings of the world, and to try to change society through words.

The young principal didn’t expect this much discussion to stem from this project. “People who disliked the idea spoke up so loud I can’t believe it,” Efti said. Some even claimed a big media company was behind it, trying to make money. A careful review of the Website reveals no hidden ads.

Instead of bloggers coming together in peace for one day, the Web split on the issue of silence. “When I started to read comments of hate and anger on other people’s blogs who wanted to support us, it was one of the most terrible experiences I had as a blogger,” Efti said. “I felt so sad and guilty. I didn’t want other bloggers to have to deal with hate. I wanted them to become a part of something filled with love.”

The angry responses varied from blog to blog. Some believed a day of silence was no good, and we needed a day of speaking out. Others thought that if the Virginia Tech students needed a day of silence so did the others who are dying around the world. Many cried out against America’s selfishness. Still others wanted to talk about gun control or the right to bear arms.

Lorelle VanFossen, a popular blogger supporting the day of silence, responded to the many comments she received on her first blog post on the subject in a post titled “Silence is a Memoriam, Not a Reason to Stop Blogging.” While in Israel, a friend warned her not to be afraid when she heard the sirens on Holocaust Remembrance l Day, a day when the country stands in silence for 2 minutes. “I laughed,” she said. “Getting an Israeli to stand still and shut up is like hoping a penny on the tracks will stop a high-speed train.”

She was surprised when the time came for the sirens. “Not a sound. Not a shout. Not a honk. Not an engine noise. Not a blaring radio. Silence. No mothers scolding. No shopkeepers shouting their wares. Silence. No airplanes. No motor scooters. No dogs barking. No sound anywhere,” she said. “Except the wailing siren.” She wondered if this was happening all over the country – 6 million people standing still in silence for 2 minutes, crying silent tears.

VanFossen wanted her readers to remember what the day of silence was for in the first place. “I found an agony in remembering and a peace in realizing that by remembering, we make sure that others did not forget, least we repeat ourselves,” she said. She wasn’t asking for the blogosphere to not talk, but to only take a moment and remember.

Erika, a woman known in the blogging world as Plain Jane Mom, is holding a day for those who want to blog about the tragedy. She isn’t against the One Day Blog Silence campaign, but is merely creating a place where others can discuss what they’re feeling. “Everyone needs to process and recognize this tragedy in their own way,” she said. She wants to give them this opportunity to share their thoughts with others.

Efti heard the news of the Virginia Tech shootings while at dinner with two friends. “I felt like I had to write something,” he said. “Anything. But didn’t know how. I felt like there is nothing I can write to describe what I feel.” Afterward, he called his two friends, and they began the One Day Blog Silence campaign.

It seems that the one day of silence has created not silence but discussion. Many bloggers have shared their thoughts in the last two weeks about the shootings. It is still one of the most searched items on the Internet today.

“I hope this day of silence will be extended to all those who die needlessly and for the ones who never get such tributes around the world,” VanFossen said.

OneDayBlogSilence.com now reads, “This day can be a symbol of support to all the victims of our world!”

Efti might be ready to relax after spending most of his free time recently answering e-mails and responding to interviews. “It’s weird, but when we started the One Day Blog Silence campaign, we did that from an impulse to help and do good,” he said. “We would have never believed that this would become such a controversy. Never.”

“Over 6 million people in Israel stood still for 2 minutes to honor Yom HaShoah,” said VanFossen. “On April 30, 2007, those of us who understand the power of silence will honor all those who needlessly die at the hands of others.

Whether you’re a blogger or not, you can participate. There’s always room for a little silence, a little remembrance. There are 364 other days out of the year to cry out against injustice, gun control, and America’s selfishness.

Today, however, some will put away their keyboards in an effort to remember those who died on that tragic day in Virginia. They will silence their own need to talk about the state of the world. If you’ve never met a blogger, then you might not understand how hard this is to do. Silence is not what blogging is about. It is about letting others hear your voice.

“Silence can say more than a thousand words,” the first sentence on OneDayBlogSilence.com reads. Today, there will be many thousands of words unspoken in response to this tragedy against not only the Virginia Tech victims, or against Americans, but against humankind.

Most will be going about their daily lives, unaware that there is a movement somewhere online. The Web will not slow. It will continue to grow each second. Those who rested their fingers, who didn’t tap a single key for one day, will always remember.