November 9, 2018

To the William Paterson University Community:

It is unimaginable that during my brief tenure as your president I write once again to our community that the nation has suffered yet another senseless murder of innocent people.

It's difficult to absorb how commonplace these mass killings with firearms have become. Perhaps as a nation we forget to feel the pain that the families and friends are feeling at their new and tragic losses. Perhaps as a country we can't take the pain of it, and so we retreat from one another. Makeshift memorials, thoughts and prayers, and candlelight vigils singing “Amazing Grace” are moments in time for many of us, yet the loss of these young lives linger forever for their families, loved ones, and friends.

One of my childhood heroes, Mister Rogers, reminds us that in times of tragedy to look for helpers. “There are always helpers,” he said. I ask you take time to be helpers in your own way. Open your phone and call the first person in your contact list that you have not talked to in the past month. Or, if you see veterans on campus, thank them for their service. Find your own meaningful way of helping and connecting with others in your circle and seek to expand that circle. Our collective strength is through connection and affection when the world is unstable.

It is perhaps through our connection to one another that we will recognize we may not agree on how to address gun violence but it is through our humanity toward one another that we are reminded that we must.

Let it be through our own acts of helping and connecting that we honor the lives of those lost and those universities impacted by this tragedy.

Richard J. Helldobler

William Paterson University