I learned about the Oikos shooting shortly after it happened from a Korean friend who communicated the whole thing in a one-line e-mail: “We did it again.” I knew what he was talking about the moment I read it. “We,” indeed, had done “it” again, and “it” required no further explanation. We first did it five years earlier, on April 16, 2007, when Seung-Hui Cho massacred 32 people at Virginia Tech University. This phrase may sound cynical and callous, but it speaks to a truth shared among immigrants whose people have done terrible things. Nothing quite welds a group together as immediately and as forcefully as these moments of collective trauma.
Last year, I published a novel in which the main character ruminates at length about Seung-Hui Cho and about his own volatile yet always suppressed anger. The book was an intensely personal endeavor, born out of an irrational but unshakable implication I felt, as a young Korean man in America, in the Virginia Tech killings. Oikos brought all that back, and because I still did not understand why I felt so implicated in the actions of two random Korean-Americans, I flew up to Oakland with no plan in mind other than to to try to talk to One Goh and the people he left in his wake.