How much healing can take place in four days, partic ularly when the wound has been cut so deep into the vein of a com munity? And how can a mere game, even one as wonderful as baseball, be a salve for people whose pain is still so close to the surface?
For now, only heaven has those answers. For all Steve Bumbry knows, there just might not have been enough time between the horrific killings on the Virginia Tech campus Monday and to night's game against Miami to put things into some semblance of reason.
But, for Bumbry, a freshman outfielder, the few hours tonight at English Field - the first on-cam pus sporting event this week - may just represent an important initial move toward healing the hole in the heart of the Hokie Nation.
"That's definitely a big stepping stone for the entire community here," Bumbry said by phone Wednesday night. "We're going to get a whole bunch of people out to show support and help keep this thing kind of going with ev erybody trying to work together and get through this whole thing.
"It's going to be a good thing. It's just one of the beginning steps in order to get back to that normalcy."
Even as he says those words, Bumbry, a three-time All-Metro outfielder at Dulaney, acknowl edges that there is nothing nor mal at Virginia Tech now.
Since a student shot and killed two people in a dorm around 7:15 a.m. Monday, mailed an angry manifesto to NBC News about two hours later, then killed 30 more people before killing him self, nothing has been like it was in Blacksburg.
Bumbry, who was one building over from where the first two vic tims were killed, said he hasn't been able to sleep in his dorm, in stead bunking temporarily off campus with friends.
On campus, Bumbry said, places that normally teem with activity are desolate. For instance, a din ing hall that normally would have been filled to the brim Wednes day had perhaps "15 or 20 stu dents in there at most. There was a kind of a dull atmosphere. No body was really socializing or be ing normal."
Can you blame them? Where is the template, the game plan, for what to do after a madman has stripped away your sense of security?
"I don't see how anybody - and I don't care what their background is, what kind of problems they have mentally or physically or whatever - I don't see how any body could commit a crime like this," Bumbry said. "I really don't. I can't comprehend any possible reason why a person would com mit an act like this."
Yet, in the midst of all this mis ery, there has been a measure of healing, found, perhaps, in the oldest of cliches, the one that says that there is strength in numbers.
The sports community has tak en Virginia Tech into its arms and embraced it, the way it always does in times of trouble. At the top of the front page of the Duke sports Web site there is the famil iar Blue Devils' mascot on the left and the now familiar "VT" logo on the right. In the middle, the words, "Today, we are all Hokies."
And the Virginia Tech campus noted the marvelous gesture of the Washington Nationals, who, at the suggestion of a fan, donned "VT" caps during their game.
"I thought that was really cool," Bumbry said. "It just kind of rein forces the fact that this problem hasn't affected just the people who have relationships with Vir ginia Tech. It's a whole nation that's been touched and pretty much the whole world."
Indeed, if there has been a place where the ache has dulled this week for Bumbry, a corner out fielder who is hitting .270 in 31 games, it has been on the dia mond with his coaches and teammates.
New coach Pete Hughes has made a point of keeping his play ers together with team dinners each night this week. And while the game doesn't provide the per fect sanctuary, especially for the handful of players who personal ly knew some of the victims, the unity is better than being alone.
"It's tough for them, as you can imagine, but it's definitely good that we have this team kind of at mosphere, and we all get along to gether and we're here to support each other," Bumbry said.
His father, Al, a former Orioles outfielder and 1973 American League Rookie of the Year, is ex pected to drive down today from the Baltimore area, to put his arm around his son and let him know he's not alone.
And after the first pitch tonight, sometime around 7, Steve Bum bry and the Virginia Tech base ball team, wearing commemora tive patches on their uniforms, one black and one maroon sock, and black sleeves with their sleeveless jerseys, will deliver a similar message to the rest of the Hokie Nation.
The message: The healing can begin together.
"Right now," Bumbry said, "spending time with the people you care about and your friends and your family every day is, I'm pretty sure, what every student needs."