The terrible tragedy in Blacksburg has overshadowed other tragic events in our minds. We live here after all. The people murdered in Virginia are our children, our teachers. But this has also been an extraordinary week in Iraq. One of the worst weeks for American casualties so far this spring, but also one of the worst weeks for Iraqi civilians.

In just a few days, a truck bomb blew up outside a busy market. More than 100 died there - many of them women and children. And that was just one of the explosions in Baghdad on Wednesday. There were explosions on all sides of the city, a total - counting the market - of more than 150 people dead. And the week before, there was an explosion in the canteen of the Iraqi parliament building and another that destroyed one end of a famous bridge over the Tigris River, sending cars and people into the water.

Today in Somalia, surging violence has caused the deaths of many civilians. Mortars fired into a marketplace killed at least 20. Another 50 people died when rockets were fired into residential areas. Many thousands of refugees are leaving Mogadishu after several nights of continuous shelling.

As we here in Washington look to neighboring Virginia, we find the inevitable connections through friends and family to the disaster there. We know something out of a much larger scale must go on in Baghdad everyday. People are trying to keep in touch, hoping that no one in their circle was lost today or Wednesday or last Monday.

In Somalia, there must be very little anyone can do to stay connected. The situations are not really comparable. Somalia has been chaotic for almost 16 years. This is the fourth year of the war in Iraq. Here, we are coming to terms with the ghastly and violent few hours, but with the same loss of precious love ones. It's a sip from a bitter cup, no less bitter because of the numbers, but a moment of grim kinship with other families and their losses.

Here in Washington and presumably also in Blacksburg, we have the solace of spring, which is moving rapidly now up the valley of Virginia. We have dogwood blooming here in Washington, carrying on the display that begins with cherry blossoms. Everything about the longer, brighter, warmer days offers us hope, except for the messages from the wide world.

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