by LJ Ulrich
Columnist, The Daily Atheneaum West Virginia University
Dear Virginia Tech,
Bruce Springsteen wrote "My City of Ruins" for survivors of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but it is a song that played over and over again in my head while I drove down the heart of West Virginia University's campus Wednesday night.
"There's a blood red circle / On the cold dark ground / And the rain is fallin' down," the Boss sang. "The church door's thrown open / I can hear the organ's song / But the congregation's gone / My city of ruins."
In Morgantown, the Hokie-hating capital of the world, Virginia Tech football jerseys had been hung on the concrete parking at the Business and Economics Loop, banners with the "VT" logo had been laid out in our student union and hundreds of Mountaineers had gathered around Woodburn Hall--not dressed in blue and gold, but in maroon and orange.
For one night--perhaps the first in Morgantown's history--the chants of "[Expletive] the Hokies!" fell silent. The typical hatred that defines the rivalry between our respective schools had been put on the shelf.
Virginia Tech, we have always had a special bond--your school and ours. We have a tradition of competition on the football field, of nasty chants, trash talk, and all the other fascinating phenomena of a rivalry. However, our schools are like quarreling brothers--two ragamuffin brats who punch the hell out of each other every chance they get but still rise to one another's defense when it matters most.
This week was one of those occasions. In Morgantown, the sense of concern for our brothers in Blacksburg was palpable. Your story, Virginia Tech, pulled on our heartstrings. Your pain became our pain, your city our city, and your struggle our struggle.
When the police pulled the bodies of the wounded from Norris Hall, we saw not fallen Hokies, but fallen friends--people like us, young kids just trying to put something in the world that hasn't been there before.
We saw your crying faces, Virginia Tech, and we mourn with you.
We mourn the empty holidays you will have to face, the weddings you will never attend, the dreams that have been vanquished. We mourn with your administration, the members of which will spend the rest of their lives with unnecessary guilt, even though they did all they could do.
We mourn with your campus police, heroes who put their lives on the line.
We mourn with the parents.
We mourn our friends--the ones with whom we grew up and competed, and those we will never get to meet.
We even mourn for the mother of Cho Seung-Hui, who will spend the rest of her life knowing that her son pained a nation and will forever wonder what she did wrong.
Virginia Tech, we are mourning with you--but we are also celebrating, for the heart and soul we have seen in Blacksburg gives us hope that there is goodness in the world, after all.
Do you realize what strength you have demonstrated, Virginia Tech?
Do you realize how beautifully you have banded together?
Do you realize what courage you have shown?
Do you realize the inspiration you have provided?
Watching the Hokie Nation band together this week, I wonder if we in Morgantown could have found the courage to stand in the path of a killer.
Could we show such strength? Could we have been so selfless and supportive of our friends? Could we have projected the same unity? Could we emulate the humanity--the goodness and the love--that emanated from our friends in Blacksburg?
At the end of his song, Springsteen offers a prayer for the survivors of Sept. 11--and it is one that can apply to you, Virginia Tech.
"Now with these hands / With these hands / I pray Lord / With these hands / I pray for the strength, Lord / With these hands / I pray for the faith, Lord / We pray for your love, Lord / We pray for the lost, Lord / We pray for this world, Lord / We pray for the strength, Lord / We pray for the strength, Lord / Come on / Come on, rise up / Come on, rise up / Come on, rise up."
Hokies, in the face of such horror and such emotion, you should be proud of the way you handled yourselves this week. Your brothers in Morgantown applaud you for your strength, and we stand behind you in your recovery.
Just a short note to let you know we are thinking about you. We are stationed in Germany and watched the terrible events unfold on CNN and BBC news. We just finished watching the memorial service and were deeply touched. Please know that the Virginia Tech overseas community is with you in spirit and prayers. God bless you all, and may those who lost family and friends find peace and solace. We know Virginia Tech will overcome this terrible day; you are and will remain in our thoughts.
Lt Col. and Mrs. Lawrence Roche
I'm writing to express my condolences about this horrible tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones involved. I'm Jewish and during our next Shabbat service in our synagogue, we will say a special prayer and a Kaddish for all the loved ones affected by these terrible events.
Victor Salomon Moreno Fleisher
Agudas Isroel Chazan
I was lucky enough to be born in Blacksburg and have never been more proud to call it home. The sorrow I have felt this week has been matched only by the overwhelming love and pride I feel for this community. Those of us who grew up here have especially grieved for our town, a place that we'll always think of as home no matter where we may live. For many of us, it has been hard to explain, even before this tragedy, how this place can mean so much to us. Now the world knows Blacksburg and yet it seems even harder to explain. They know it by tragedy. We know it by heart.
The Virginia Tech campus provided the backdrop for our childhood, the landscape for our imaginations. We grew up feeding the ducks at the Duck Pond while wearing our favorite Hokie t-shirts. We watched the Highty-Tighties practice and clapped along with "Tech Triumph." We ate at Carol Lee Donuts, our legs swinging from those funny little stools while we looked out the windows at the downtown we would grow to love. We learned the words to "Old Hokie" and kept score at countless basketball and football games. We looked at Tech students and saw the people we hoped to be someday . . . one became Miss America, another went to the Olympics, and most were just older and smarter and more fun than us. We learned that people from all over the world call Blacksburg home.
As we grew up, the campus was home to classes, concerts, and camps. Prom. High-school graduation. We learned that we are loved here--by our parents, our friends' parents, our teachers, our entire community. We learned that intelligence is worth celebrating but kindness is more important. We learned to be "bicycle friendly" and that recycling is a virtue. We learned to tailgate. We learned that leaving a sporting event before it's over, whether winning or losing, is not an option. We learned to appreciate the beauty of a country day and the steady support of lifelong friends. We learned--and took to heart--the messages on the Pylons: Brotherhood, Honor, Leadership, Loyalty, Service, Sacrifice, Duty, and Ut Prosim. We learned what Ut Prosim meant, both literally and by the examples of so many around us. Later, we learned that no matter what corner of the world life led us to, we would still be Hokies at heart. We watched in amazement as our football team played in the national championship game. It was so exciting that we sometimes had to re-read the newspaper coverage because we couldn't believe they were actually talking about us. We learned that we are all in this together. We learned that there really is no place like home. And, over the years, we learned that sometimes it snows in April around here, never imagining that one day, an April snowstorm would carry death on its shoulders and evil in the wind.
As I stood on the Drillfield, which was so achingly and beautifully bathed in candlelight, I realized that my Blacksburg upbringing had not prepared me for this. It seemed that even Burruss Hall might cry. How could this be the same place we played "capture the flag"? Where we had those late night high school conversations and gathered to watch fireworks on the 4th of July? How could any of this be?
On April 16, we found out there are a lot of things we didn't learn here: the type of hatred that spawned this crime; the etiquette for walking on a blood-stained sidewalk; the right words to say when reality hurts this badly. We didn't learn how to handle condescending national media critics, so sure in their criticism and suffocating in their superiority that they never took the time to learn that there is no such thing as "Virginia Tech University." We certainly didn't learn how to make sense of it all. It was so horrifying that we sometimes had to re-read the newspaper coverage because we couldn't believe they were actually talking about us.
Now, the whole world wears orange and maroon. It is overwhelming, comforting, and disorienting all at once. They ask if we knew any of the victims. We knew them all. Because last week they were in line behind us at the grocery store, or at church with us, or just breathing the same glorious mountain air. They loved this place as much as we still do, but were robbed of the chance to enjoy it any longer.
We know this place by heart, but now our hearts are broken. Though it feels at times as if things will never be the same, I realize that some things haven't changed. Last week, I looked at Virginia Tech students and once again saw in them the person I hope to be someday. The Duck Pond still glistens in the sunlight. Brotherhood, Honor, Leadership, Loyalty, Service, Sacrifice, and Duty have never been more evident. More than ever, we are all in this together. We will not let one person destroy what is, and what always has been, so good and so true. We are a community, not a crime scene. And on April 16, we learned again through the heroism of our police force, the bravery of our neighbors, and the lives of 32 beautiful people that there is still no better place to call home.
Ann Cassell, Blacksburg, Va.
Sorry to hear of what happened at the university. May God comfort you all.
A pastor in the U.K.
To Virginia Tech
The Richmond Times-Dispatch said it best:
"Blacksburg does not lie in the heart of Virginia, but it is nestled in Virginians' hearts."
I was born with Virginia Tech in my heart,
And I grew to keep it in many places.
I keep it in black-and-white photographs of Miles Field,
And a left end wearing no helmet or shoulder pads.
I keep it in old movies of marching caped figures,
One of whom I called "Daddy."
I keep it in the radio where my father listened,
And yelled instructions to the players,
In memories of VPI/VMI games in stadiums with hard, metal seats,
Raw peanuts, and all the grown-ups yelling.
I keep it on the wall with my father's football
From his winning touchdown,
And in my closet with his orange hat,
Purchased at his 50th class reunion in 1973,
Worn by me to New Orleans for Sugar Bowl 2000
And a street toast with a "Huge-Ass Beer."
Now I nearly lose it in tears for the latest tragedies,
Which render us helpless as children,
Showing us horrors that defy imagination
In a world grown too vast for control.
I am reminded of the childhood game, Red Rover,
When we hold hands, clutching one another tightly.
For, sometimes, that is all we know to do.
Take our outstretched hands, Hokies, and hold on--
Way up, above the noise, "Pop" Bailey is still cheering for you.
by Frances Bailey Crutchfield
My name is Tony and I come from Scotland in the United Kingdom. I am very sorry to hear of the shootings at your university today. I just wanted you to know that my condolences are with all of the people who lost loved ones and also those whose loved ones were injured in the shootings. We had such a tragedy at one of our primary schools some years back. I will say prayers for ALL of you.
After everything that has happened this week, I didn't know how to express my thoughts so I have written the following words about Virginia Tech and what it has meant to me. Please pass along to any fellow Hokies.
We are Virginia Tech
What is a Hokie?
A question we have heard a million times.
A trivial adjective? A fighting turkey?
A Hokie is so much more than that.
"That I May Serve"--
It's not just our school motto,
It's our way of life.
We are not just a school, we are a community.
A Hokie is a citizen of Virginia Tech.
We are all brothers and sisters.
There is no black, white, tan, or yellow,
Only Maroon and Orange.
We are Virginia Tech.
We always watch out for one another.
We always say hello.
Whether we win or lose,
We chant like champions.
We know to shake our keys during the 3rd down.
We know all the words to our school songs.
We know the Drillfield is slowly sinking.
We know our buildings are clad in Hokie Stone.
We are Virginia Tech.
We are strong.
We are proud.
It's called Hokie spirit.
And we love to share it with everyone.
Even in our darkest hours.
The words, "Let's Go . . .”
Have only one known response.
We are Virginia Tech.
We are in shock.
We are deeply grieved.
We have had members of our family
Senselessly taken away from us.
We have been wounded to the core.
We have been misrepresented by one individual
Who never understood the responsibility,
The awesome privilege,
Of being a member of this community.
But through this sadness
We have seen thousands of candles lighting the heart of our campus
like a ray of light.
To band together as the family we are.
To show the world who we are.
We are strong.
We are proud.
We will prevail.
We are Virginia Tech.
Michelle Acevedo '93, '95
I heard what happened on the news and I just want to say that I'll be praying for the injured and all the innocent souls who lost their lives. GOD BLESS each and everyone of you.
Good morning to you,
All of us are so sorry to hear what you have been through. I am an alumna of CSU Fullerton where we experienced a horrific tragedy in 1976, when a janitor shot some our faculty, staff, and students. A book that may help some of you is called When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner. He is a rabbi who lost a son to cancer and he writes not only about his experience but also about others who have gone through terrible things. Again, we are all so sorry about what happened to all of you.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
On behalf of CSU Fullerton,
Virginia Tech Class of '84 here. Began my career in the news bureau, where I worked for four years. I can't imagine what it's like in Blacksburg now. What a sense of innocence lost. Those of us familiar and intimate with VT and Blacksburg know that they are ideal--truly God's country. We've all been devastated and I just want to offer my thoughts and prayers to those folks I used to work with who are still up there.
God bless all Hokies today.
Director, University Relations
Virginia State University
My daughter is a Virginia Tech student. She was in a class in Price Hall when the shootings happened and none of her close friends have been directly affected, but it certainly will be something that always stays with her.
I've no doubt that each and every person on the Virginia Tech campus did the very best that he or she could during this tragedy and I'll leave it to others to cast stones as to what "should" have been done. I feel pretty confident that a similar incident would have had a similar outcome here at UGA.
I'm proud that my daughter is a Hokie and I'm proud of how VT is handling this tragedy. My prayers are with you.
Denise H. Horton
Director of Communications
College of Family and Consumer Sciences
University of Georgia
The following message was posted on the internal Web page of SAIC--a leading systems, solutions, and technical services company based in San Diego--for its employees:
SAIC has a large contingent of Virginia Tech alumni as employees and many SAIC employees have sons, daughters, or relatives who attend Virginia Tech. We understand that the children of some of our employees know the victims who were killed or injured. As soon as we heard about this very sad tragedy, we began contacting all those who might be affected. While it does not diminish the sorrow we feel for the families or those who died, we are relieved to learn none of our Virginia Tech connections were severely harmed.
We have learned that one student widely credited with saving lives by barricading the classroom door is the brother of an SAIC employee. Although this young man was among those wounded in the shooting, his injuries were not life-threatening. The SAIC management and HR team has extended its full support to our employee. We successfully have contacted all of our recent Virginia Tech interns. All are safe. However, we have learned that two of these young people were in close proximity to the shootings--one was in the dorm where the initial shooting took place and was part of the evacuation, another was just one floor above the shooting spree in Norris Hall. They both were shaken by the experience.
During this difficult time, I ask that you lend your support in both word and deed to colleagues who are responding to the needs of their families and friends.
Clearly, one does not have to have a direct, personal connection to Virginia Tech to be moved to action. A number of employees have asked what we can do and how we can help. Employees who want to make a donation can give to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. The fund was established by the university to cover expenses including, but not limited to, grief counseling, memorials, communication expenses, comfort expenses, and incidental needs. Our CEO, Ken Dahlberg, has authorized a $25,000 donation to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund.
This Friday, April 20, will be Orange and Maroon Effect Day to honor the victims and their families. Virginia Tech is encouraging everyone across the country to wear orange and maroon in support. We know there will be a lot of orange and maroon in our Virginia locations.
If you see a need that is not being met for employees touched by this tragedy, please contact your manager or HR team. SAIC's employee assistance program is available to employees and their family members at https://issaic.saic.com/corporate/hr/benefits/other/eap.html. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who are hurting as a result of this terrible event.
A college campus in April has a certain look and feel. We find it in the soft sweet smell of freshly cut grass that had been greening for a few weeks. We find it in the sight of oak and sycamore in small leaf, and of redbud and dogwood in bloom.
And an April morning on campus has its own sounds. There are the quick footsteps of a student late for class. There is the rustle of exploration at the bottom of a backpack as a hand searches for a pen. There is the soft, "How's it going?" to the student whose name you don't know but who has sat beside you twice a week for three months. And there is the low buzz of chatter just before class and the quiet that replaces it when your professor arrives.
Morning in April on a college campus flows with thoughts of a coming summer job that will follow on the heels of fast-approaching final exams. For some, the mind's eye envisions a graduation ceremony, a sea of black robes, the drone of a commencement speaker, and mortarboards tossed into blue sky. Thoughts of disaster have no place on a college campus in April.
But this April day was different. In two hours, everything changed forever. A shooter killed, and killed again, at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.
Thirty-two are dead, as is the shooter, who killed himself. More are wounded. The lives of a thousand parents, children, grandparents, spouses, brothers, and sisters have been turned upside down. Acquaintances try to acknowledge the horrible truth. In their hurt and shock, they may repeat a story again and again to anyone who will listen, or to themselves if no one is there: "I was just talking to her last night. She was working on her lit. paper. She told me it was due in the morning. Now she's gone. I was just talking to her last night. . . .”
Here in the town of Huntington, W. Va., where I teach at Marshall University, we understand the chill that won't go away. Thirty-six years ago, nearly all the members of the Marshall University football team and numerous citizens of this community, 75 people in all, died on a rain-soaked Saturday night when their plane crashed while returning from a game at East Carolina University. The story is told in a recent motion picture, "We Are Marshall."
Today, the tragedy in Blacksburg has brought about a connection between Marshall University and Virginia Tech. It's a connection we wish had never happened. The states of Virginia and West Virginia have always been separate but close. The western half of what was then Virginia went its own way on June 20, 1863. Thus West Virginia was created by the stroke of Abraham Lincoln's pen. Virginia and West Virginia, two states that are separate, yet close.
Blacksburg and Huntington. Virginia Tech and Marshall University. Our communities and universities now are linked by the two worst campus tragedies in U.S. history.
As the healing processes goes, we are a little farther ahead of our brothers and sisters in Blacksburg with a head start of more than three decades. To those in Blacksburg who grieve and to those who sent your sons and daughters to Blacksburg, know that we stand beside you in your April mourning.
Today, at Marshall University, "We Are Virginia Tech."
W. Joseph Wyatt, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
We wish to extend our deepest condolences to Virginia Tech for the deaths and injuries to your students. The Christian Motorcyclists Association here in Graham, Texas, has each and every student and teacher in our prayers. This is an American tragedy that will have a profound effect on the future of the entire world. Please, young people, do not ever lose faith in the goodness and compassion of your fellow human beings and never lose faith in God. One act of violence can cause horrific, heartbreaking grief such as each and every one of you are feeling. May God watch over all of you during this time.
Brazos Valley Believers
Christian Motorcyclists Association
Utter disbelief. Emptiness. Sorrow that hits to the core. How could something like this happen? At Virginia Tech? It used to be in the middle of nowhere, now a bit bigger, but still a close-knit community. You don't know everyone, but if you live there, you are all connected and you are all Hokies. And no one has to explain to you what a Hokie is. You come to know and to be one. Before graduating almost 17 years ago, I had friends in AJ and walked by Norris. I thought about the same things all students do: what was due when, what test I wasn't ready for yet, and, of course, what "college activities" I was going to partake in over the weekend. I can't imagine the sheer terror and fear that encompassed the students on Monday. I didn't know any student or professor personally who was affected. But I can tell you that as a student at Virginia Tech, you are brought into the family and when a member of the family is affected, we are all affected.
It's hard for someone to grasp what that feeling is like, especially since Virginia Tech is so large. Let me try to put it into words: It's the feeling of walking by the majestic Hokie Stone buildings on campus. As you pass the coarse blocks, those buildings allow you to be a part of their strength. It's walking across the Drillfield and looking for your friends between certain classes. Sometimes you pass the same people at the same place every day and share a smile, even though you don't know them and they don't know you. It's the pride felt on game day as the boys come through the tunnel, and win, lose, or draw, Hokies everywhere are behind them all the way. It's being a member of the Marching Virginians and feeling the rush as you power-march out of the tunnel or run onto the field. It's the cannon going off after a touchdown and hearing "Tech Triumph." It's seeing all of the maroon and orange on game day, or on any day, for that matter. As a graduate, it's passing a vehicle with a VT or Tech flag on it. It's seeing a proud parent with a ball cap. It's a closeness and connection that one can only truly understand by having called Blacksburg and Virginia Tech home. After graduation, we all left "home" but a piece of that home went with us as we left our alma mater to make a difference by fulfilling the motto "That I may serve."
I will always and forever be a Hokie. I will celebrate the victories and feel the losses, I will feel the sadness and grieve with others. I want to be there on the Drillfield holding a candle and supporting others. I need to stand in front of Norris Hall and pray and offer a shoulder. Being a Hokie is not a word, it's a lifestyle. It's who we are and what the university experience taught us; it's the comfort of having a family with us when we spread our wings. To the parents and friends of those that were lost, know that your son, daughter, father, mother, or friend was a member of our family and that we are all better because of them. They have touched the lives of others in a way that will inspire others who will carry on their memory. Hokies everywhere are feeling your pain and we are here for you. Students of Virginia Tech, we are with you, we pray for you, and as time goes by and we heal, we will overcome. I pray that you have the courage and strength to face this unthinkable event and that you’ll keep the Hokie spirit with you.
Sarah Osborn Welty '90, Marching Virginians 1987-1990
My name is Kelly Kwiecinsk and I am a junior at Emerson College in Boston, Mass. I was struck by the events that happened on Monday and, after watching the memorial service on Tuesday, I was inspired to write a poem. I very rarely write poems but this just kind of came to me. After I shared it with some people, they suggested I send it to Virginia Tech to let you know that we care and that our hearts go out to you. You are in our prayers and in our thoughts.
As people gather with grief
And streams of tears are shed
We watch in disbelief
As they mourn the dead.
Many lives have been taken
They didn't have a chance
Our hearts now are achin'
We watch them walk around in a trance.
How does one think
They have a right to choose
Who lives and who dies
Who becomes stats on the news?
Such violence and hate
Causes anguish and pain
If peace is not found
There will be nothing we'll gain.
It's time now to love
To stand together
It may not have been you
But try to think how they feel.
With prayers and condolence
We hope to help lift the sadness
The unimaginable torment
Caused by this madness.
I imagine you must be receiving thousands of e-mails but I just had to tell you all that we in the UK are thinking of you all every minute of every day.
I wish I had the answers for you in how to try and bear this situation and many will tell you time heals, although it doesn't. All I can say is for you all to just hold onto each other and understand that some people will blame others and this is all part of nature's way of dealing with horror. If all America can try to not pass blame and to just truly love each other, then it will get better.
God bless you all from some very heartbroken mums in the United Kingdom who wish we could help you.
With all of my love,
It was with shock and disbelief that I watched the horrid tragedy unfold.
I thought, "It is hardly a day that passes that Tech doesn't touch our lives in some positive manner." Tech is woven into the fabric of our great state's heart.
Although I did not attend Tech, several of my closet friends and former teammates did. That, coupled with the fact that I lived next to a Golden Hokie for more than 25 years has allowed me a certain insight into their characters. All Hokies should hold their heads high and keep the memories of those who suffered always in their thoughts. Their sacrifices should spur their fellow Hokies on to greater accomplishments and cause the lamps of understanding and education to glow as never before.
My prayers are with families, the students, the faculty, and the administration of this great university that has proven itself time and again to its students, the state, and the world.
Your humble servant,
Amanda and I wrote a song today that I believe could be very powerful for those trying to make sense out of this week. It's called "Chains Bar the Exit." How can someone be full of so much anger? How can good come out of despair? How can a loving God let something like this happen? I don't have all the answers, but I do know that in the midst of despair in that building there was a window! A way out! Thank God for that.
You can listen to the song I just posted on our website by going to www.toddandamanda.org/musicroom.html and clicking on the picture of Virginia Tech Students in mourning. Please feel free to email and discuss anything with us, and know that when there seems no way out . . . there always is.
Chains Bar the Exit
When it seems the world is dying,
So much you don't understand
When you hurt so bad, you hurt so many.
Oh, I wish you wouldn't have.
Hope introduced a dream,
Broken dreams are tragedy.
Rejection builds the storm inside you,
Anger rages silently.
Oh, I wish it wouldn't be
Oh, I wish it wouldn't be.
When chains bar the exit, and despair is after you,
When chains bar the exit, find another way through,
Hope finds a way through.
When your chains are discovered,
The window could have been your friend.
The light shines beyond it,
It didn't have to be the end.
To those of us left standing,
To those who are afraid,
Dreams don't die with mourning,
Hope will prevail.
Oh, I hope that you will see,
Oh, I hope that you will see.
When the chains bar the exit and despair is after you.
When chains bar the exit, find another way through,
Hope finds a way through.
It's been about a week since the senseless tragedy at my graduate school alma mater Virginia Tech and we have now had time to move past the initial shock of the event and begin to grieve. As is seemingly the norm for modern America we have, in incredibly rapid succession, gone from watching a horrible tragedy unfold live on our television sets, to learning the most minute details about a mentally disturbed young man, to hearing of incredible acts of heroism, to listening the heart-wrenching stories of those we have lost, to sharing our pain and sorrow. Driven by our multimedia culture, we move faster and faster through the collective process of grieving; or perhaps we are simply too well versed in the morbid steps of such a public tragedy.
Regardless, our lives will go on, and this is a good thing, because life will go on. While the images and emotions of that fateful day are seared into our collective consciousness, our own lives, with all of the demands of the modern world, will cause them to fade, likely more quickly than we might think, to a small place in the back of our memories. We pledge not to forget, but we will. I think that intuitively we all know this, and because of that, we all try to cling to one thing that will soothe our souls and make us feel as if we won’t forget what happened. It would seem that "4-16-07" is that one thing, but dates lack a soul and remembering an event by its date is destined to be coupled with an even larger American tragedy.
Over time, we will struggle with remembering so many names and, unfortunately, the only name we will probably always remember will be the one that we should all do our best to forget. For this reason I ask all of you, members of the Hokie Nation and others who are touched by our tragedy, to choose one name, to select one of the 32 victims to remember. Who that person should be, I leave to you, but I ask that once you choose that person, make a commitment to learn all that you can. We should study their pictures to remember their smiles. Take note of their passions, their accomplishments, and their dreams and wishes. Learn everything you can so that no matter how much time passes, at least a little memory of that person will remain with you. Perhaps, after many years, the name you have chosen will be all that is left, but it will be a name worthy of remembrance.
Let us all lift upon our shoulders the victims we have chosen and carry them with us so that they may, through us, live the lives that they should have. Every time we don the orange and maroon, let's think of them. Every time we meet up with fellow alumni, think of them. Every time we see "VT" or the HokieBird and every time we jump up and down as "Enter Sandman" plays while the football team takes the field, let them whisper in our ears, "Go, Hokies." Let us carry them forward so we can forget the one name we shouldn't remember and instead recall more than just a date.
Michael Olsen M.S. '00
On behalf of the Edgewater Technology family, I'd like to express our condolences for the great loss your community has experienced.
While we cannot begin to comprehend the magnitude of this horrific event, we do feel your pain, having lost seven friends and colleagues in 2000 to a workplace violence incident. No one would deny that you have a tough road ahead of you. If we were to provide any advice, it would be to stand strong as a family and to look to those around you for continued support.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the entire Virginia Tech community.
President and CEO
Edgewater Technology, Inc.
In the twinkling of an eye,
In the softly swirling sand,
Your precious and beloved,
Gently took their Master's hand.
Do not weep for them oh loved one,
Nor grieve forever more.
They now rest in constant love,
On a far and distant shore.
On a far and distant shore.
Can't you hear the sounds of trumpets?
Shofar's call, Temple Bells now zing!
Listen to your precious,
As Alleluias now they sing.
As Alleluias now they sing.
A tragedy struck Blacksburg and
The whole world felt its pain.
Thirty-three lives ended way too soon,
Their memories remain.
Saddened students questioned why this evil
Took away their friend.
Answers lay beyond each gasping grasp,
Just blowing in the wind.
Vigils brought light to the dark as
Hokie heroes were revealed.
Sounds stood still as "Taps" rang through the night
While many prayed and kneeled.
Tears and hugs connected all and
Courage triumphed over fear.
All resolved that the Hokie Nation
Would not fail to persevere.
Arms now locked in solemn unity,
Maroon and orange on all.
Devastation did not win this time.
We took a higher call.
Strengthened now from what we've all been through,
With hearts joined we will cope.
Passing time will heal our wounds;
We're Hokie Nation, Hokie Hope!
Don Douglas '68
I have more respect for Virginia Tech today than I did yesterday . . .
Because of your strength and courage, I sit back and reflect today . . .
And though your loved ones have passed away
We still look forward to a brighter day
And an even brighter tomorrow . . .
I know our hearts feel sorrow but we must push on . . .
And keep on praying to God until the pain is gone . . .
But every time I think about it I thank God that I'M alive . . .
And I often pray for ones who survived
'Cause see, Virginia Tech is very close to me
Because Tech educated me, my friends and family . . .
So when the students yell out "HOKIE!!!" like they often do
I also scream out Hokie because I'm a Hokie, too
Tech took me in when I was just a teen in strife . . .
They educated, guided and prepared me for life . . .
And I don't know if it's still around
But I thank God for their program called Upward Bound . . .
See, they extended their hand to a ghetto teen like me
And helped unlock my mind and set it free
And Lord knows just where I would be
If they didn't express that kind of love for me
So naturally there's a connection created
And that same love is reciprocated
That's why I lift my voice and show my respect
When I say "We are Virginia Tech"
Victorious in the midst of tragedy
Inspiration in the eye of a storm
Resilient once the storm is over
Gallantly making time go on
Incredibly making the world take notice
Never giving up on love
Immediately extending a helping hand
As we look toward the sky above
Together we can make it through
Evolving in these times is a must
Centering our attention on God and country
Hokie spirit is in all of us
Virginia Tech . . . you will forever be a part of me.
1) offers its heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families, and to students, faculty, administration and staff and their families who have been deeply affected by the tragic events that occurred today at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia;
2) expresses its hope that today's losses will lead to a shared national commitment to take steps that will help our communities prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future;
3) recognizes that Virginia Tech has served as an exemplary institution of teaching, learning, and research for well over a century; and that the university's historic and proud traditions will carry on.
U.S. Senate resolution, proposed by Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and passed on April 16.
Hi! My name is Andrea (Ballengee) Preuss. I graduated in 1995 and was Mrs. America 2006. I lived in West AJ and took classes at Norris Hall. I am so saddened by what has happened at VT. Now is a time for us all to be "mothers to our community." Please let me know of anything that I can do to help. And please know that I can't wait to send my six- and eight-year-olds to Virginia Tech as soon as they are old enough!
Andrea Preuss '95
Mrs. America 2006
Mrs. United States 2004
I've written a poem as a tribute to Hokie spirit in the aftermath of the April tragedy that struck Virginia Tech. I am a VT business administration graduate, class of '54. My father was a business professor at Tech and I grew up in Blacksburg, where I spent the first 21 years of my life.
Charles Hedrick '54
It's always there, simmering at the surface
A close-knit community of kindred souls
Forged together to value VT learning
Like a smoking bed of burning coals.
Maybe we're too close to it to explain
What makes our college supremely unique Ut Prosim--that I may serve--is close
But doesn't cover fully the Hokie mystique.
We always knew the term means more
Than a sentiment that cheerleaders unfurl
Recent events reaffirm: Hokie spirit helps us
Show our best to the rest of the world.
The victims of our recent tragedy have left
In our hearts, minds and souls an ache
That will be forever etched in our history
Embarked on a journey only angels take.
Joining in a clockwork maroon and orange
Hokies have linked together with a spirit true
Rising above tragedy with love and devotion
A stalwart band in full-dress Corps review.
Loads of love to Virginia Tech teachers, students, families, and friends
What is the right thing that we could say?
All of our thoughts and feelings get all in the way.
We can't imagine how hard it must be.
This is off the chart and extremely difficult for us to see.
There are many, many scenarios that have been put to you.
But what it all boils down to is there was nothing anyone could do.
This man was on a mission, much to our regret.
He destroyed and shattered so many lives, he could never pay that debt.
His parents are among the living, they're shattered by his sin.
Their hearts are totally burdened with questions deep within.
The professor in engineering, who gave the students more time.
So they could slip out of windows, a jester that was so-o-o kind.
Our tears are flowing freely, our hearts are completely numb,
That so many young and beautiful people, on this day had to succumb.
Can you imagine the horror? Can you imagine the fear?
The anger and hate, from one man, that they all had to bear.
Do not react in anger, it's not the thing to do.
It will only mess things up and make it worse for you.
I don't know who believes in God, but this you can be sure.
Your precious loved ones are under His grace, and mercy for evermore.
Put your trust in a higher power, so you can have some peace.
We pray for many blessings for you all and that they never cease.
One thing for sure, to ease your pain, will take the test of time.
You could never forget, but you will endure, the results of this horrific crime.
May the God of gods protect your mind, may He protect your heart.
May He give you all the strength you need, to live and make a new start.
Bless you, bless you, bless you my friends,
Be showered with blessings until your end.
University of Maryland
College Park, Md.
"Children of April" is a song written in tribute to the victims of April 16, 2007. Our musical group, LUV CNU, based at Christopher Newport University, was formed especially to record this song. We offer it as a gift to Virginia Tech and the university and college communities at large. Three versions of the song can be heard and mp3s downloaded for free at www.myspace.com/childrenofapril. One of those versions has no vocals so that it can be used as a backtrack for other vocalists at future tributes. Our hope is that "Children of April" will bring some comfort to those who need it, while honoring all those who so richly deserve it.
All the best,
Children of April
They came from everywhere, from places far and wide,
Most to learn and some to teach, all to share the love inside.
They went to a mountain school, amid the pines and whippoorwills.
They wore orange and maroon, in this city on a hill.
Youth dreaming of future days, while their teachers guided them.
One teacher saw the Holocaust, just to see it come again,
Erupting on an April morn, amidst a swirling wind,
A tortured mind bearing arms, an attempt to lock them in.
But the children of April can never be locked in.
They cheer at every game.
They ride the swirling wind.
The children of April remain in God's embrace.
They are in the better hugs.
They march in every May.
The children of April still cheer at every game.
Send messages of love,
As we speak out their names.
The children of April remain in God's embrace.
They are in the better hugs.
They march in every May.
I am a graduate of USC's MFA in professional writing program and have served as a creative writing instructor at the University of Redlands. Needless to say, I was deeply moved by the Virginia Tech Tragedy. As a consequence, I have written a poem entitled, "Goodbye, Liviu Librescu" that is scheduled to be published in several different places. My deepest condolences to all the families, friends and colleagues of the beloved victims.
Goodbye, Liviu Librescu
"Love ye one another as I have loved you." Jesus Christ
I didn't know, on the day I was born,
That sorrows had already broken the world . . .
That a young man, age 28, a Holocaust survivor,
Had carried that brokenness for years.
We are all born broken,
Sorrows slowly seeping through our cracks,
Saturating us until we weep . . .
And Liviu, now a 76-year-old college professor, endured.
I must confess I often wondered why . . .
Until April 16th, when several students at Virginia Tech
Credited him with preserving their lives.
The last thing they say they saw
Before climbing from that classroom window to safety
Was his face . . . as he turned
To stand against that old visage of hate, the messenger of evil.
But the deafening cracks of the bullets that pierced him
Seemed only to quiet the weeping . . . ease the sorrows.
For as he slumped down at last,
His sacrifice raised many eyes to something beautiful.
Then I understood; Love is never broken,
Only amplified in glorious strains of hope.
You were sitting in class
You weren't at fault
When your life and some others
Came to a halt
Your teacher was teaching
Like any other day
I never knew life
Was as short as some say
You were doing your work
Not making a sound
When suddenly it happened
Your teacher shouted get down
You tried to get down
But your reaction was late
All because of someone's anger
That turned into hate
It happened so quickly
32 were dead
It wasn't just the wounds
But the souls that had bled
What happened that day
Made things a wreck
In loving memory
Of Virginia Tech
by Brittany Scharek, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Grace E. Metz Middle School in Manassas, Va.
April 22, 2007
This special place will not be defined by a tragic loss
People often call their college years the best of their lives, but not all are fortunate enough to spend those years in Blacksburg, Va. The small, rural town tucked away amid the Appalachian Mountains in Southwest Virginia was home for my four years of undergraduate study at Virginia Tech and, nearly nine years since graduation, it still holds a special place in my heart.
Today, my heart is also filled with unspeakable sadness for the brutality on that campus Monday morning. This has been the toughest week of my 31 years. Losing so many promising young people and accomplished professionals is painfully tragic. That it happened in a place I hold so dear makes the loss a personal one.
Driving away from Blacksburg after my campus visit in April 1994, I had only one firm conclusion: There was no way I would spend four years in such a rainy, dreary setting. The two days were marked by a steady downpour that Tech students advised was a constant companion of life at the school. High school friends were pleasant hosts, but they spent the entire visit with noses pressed to books in their tiny room in Miles Hall.
Life rarely leads in expected directions, and eventually I enrolled in engineering at Tech. I was soon spending autumn Saturdays in raucous Lane Stadium and weekdays struggling to understand calculus and engineering fundamentals.
I learned about the history of the university, a land-grant institution founded as a military school in 1872. I appreciated the unique presence of the Corps of Cadets, since Tech is one of only two schools with civilian and military student populations (Texas A&M is the other), and that seven alumni and former cadets earned the Medal of Honor. And I embraced the school colors--Chicago maroon and burnt orange--that distinctly identify Hokie fans from their peers at other schools.
The punishing regimen of engineering soon made communication studies and political science more attractive options. And I emerged in 1998, degree in hand, with a hopeful future and an innate connection to the place where I was nurtured into adulthood.
Most who are associated with Virginia Tech share similar stories. They speak of a place defined by thoughtful minds and easy smiles, people who share a common devotion to their school and their community. It is a campus defined by its spirit as much as by its picturesque landscape of Hokie Stone (locally quarried limestone) buildings. And most will tell of peaceful times, throwing a Frisbee on the Drillfield or studying in the serenity by the Duck Pond on the edge of campus.
Most, but not all. Certainly not after this week.
Today, my heart aches for the 32 members of our family who were killed in shameful and horrific fashion in our dorms and our classrooms. It aches for their families and friends and for all those wounded. And, yes, it aches for the madman's family.
I have felt helpless, at times paralyzed by anguish and anger and sorrow.
Not there, I think. Oh God, not in Blacksburg.
Amid that pain, however, I have found strength. It comes from friends and family who have lent their support and their concern. It swells in this community, for which I have deep affection, and through East Carolina University, where I earned a master's degree. And it shines through in the messages of love and solidarity sent to Virginia Tech and the Hokie nation from universities across the country and around the world.
Nikki Giovanni, who is far more eloquent than I, is a poet and University Distinguished Professor of English in Blacksburg. Her words at Tuesday's convocation ring out: "We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid . . . through all this sadness. We are the Hokies. We will prevail . . . We are Virginia Tech."
We are mourning and we are in pain. But there is strength and comfort in our collective resilience. I am confident in our refusal to bow to this horror. And we refuse to allow this week's events to diminish a place that we as Hokies hold so dear.
Brian Colligan '98 is editorial page editor of The Daily Reflector.
Blacksburg, Virginia Throws a Picnic, 5 Days After 32 of Us are Killed
by Lily Corwin '01
The smell of flowers, sent, of course, to comfort, is overwhelming, even out
My friend at the local flower shop has not slept in a week,
busy arranging orange carnations with maroon ones,
stapling ribbons together,
and fending off the vampire press.
We do not have the infrastructure for this kind of tragedy.
We are not that kind of town.
We do the simpler, silly things of life well:
the eating, the drinking, the football, the street fair.
Set up for nearly a week here are 33 piles of flowers,
tents full of candles,
and sheet after sheet after sheet of long wide paper.
and almost unfathomably touching messages cover them,
sprawled, writers bending down awkwardly,
with black Sharpies.
I have been crying too much maybe, self-indulgently.
I have not cried enough, perhaps, allowing myself laughter and distraction.
Is it a desire for purgation or a morbid prurience that keeps me reading
sheet after sheet?
The anxieties surrounding the sorrow are worse than the sorrow itself,
which seeks and demands no reply,
the fear at the heart of it the fear that,
after wounded mourning feet have padded over our grass,
after fingers worn with worry and prayer have brushed over our Hokie Stone,
after the world has learned our name,
after such extraordinary pain,
we will be changed.
All of a sudden, like a gunshot, an ungainly staccato pop
disturbs the solemn air,
the sound of loudspeakers unceremoniously turned on
followed by an ugly amplified hissing.
At first people look around, shocked, as though it is not right to
picnic on a graveyard,
to revel on a crime scene.
Then, the familiar and life-affirming sounds of rock n roll
boom out over the Drill Field, joining the smells of pizza and hotdogs,
which weave around mourners, picnickers,
the familiar chaos of children throwing frisbees
and dogs barking at other dogs
as the early summer sun lowers slightly.
It's alright. It's all right. It is still my home.
like a scared bird, my heart is desperate
to jump out of its cage.
thousands of invisible creatures
crawling under my skin,
my life is ending its final walk, leaving my body.
I close my eyes, but the tears find their way out.
I am holding the telephone tight,
finally, there is a voice, "Mom, I am fine."
images of bodies covered with blood, and
those sad tearful faces, paint a sea of sorrow.
pictures of 32 silent tombs in my head,
un-known dreams of a young heart, I can only pray.
the sky is dying to cry,
I expect the earth to rumble, I wait for the world to scream.
I open my eyes, 32 balloons are dancing in the blue sky.
can they reach Heaven? can they say "Hello" to God's new 32 angels?
the Sky is finally crying,
and the rain falls on ashes of shocked brains.
black crows mourning, but the cars on the road still running,
people busily end their work days . . .
the world did not stop.
the 32 balloons are reaching the stars now, and
I think about a tortured soul,
did he ever fly a balloon?
This poem is dedicated to the families of the victims of April 16; my son, Jimmy; his friends; and all Virginia Tech students for their suffering.
Just One Afternoon
by Doris Moore, Virginia Tech fan
Just one afternoon . . . . Long enough to play a football game.
Long enough to try to take a step forward.
Long enough to look beyond that dreadful April day of gun shots, sirens, and tears.
Maroon and orange all around, the band played, the fans roared, the team prevailed.
It led our minds and hearts to happier times . . . . but maybe, just maybe
we could look to the now, look to the future.
They would have wanted that.
Separately they came together, no way of knowing as they embarked on that morning,
that they would make a lasting mark on Hokieland.
But as we have learned, they would do so much more.
They would help the world to see
just what it means to be true, just what it means to be one.
Their sacrifice, although supreme
united many that otherwise would have never known,
that if only for a brief passage in time, their loss would make us all Hokies.
Just one afternoon
maroon and orange all around, the band played, the fans roared, the team prevailed.
And all of us vowed once more
to love each other like we know
that all we may have . . . . is . . . . just one afternoon.
Photos of a card created by group of inmates at Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary to memorialize April 16. The families of the 32 victims each received a copy of the card.
by Lynda Allen '89
One heart on the surface grown cold.
Thirty-two stories being told.
One heart alone and lost.
Thirty-two stories the cost.
One heart buried beneath rage.
Thirty-two stories fill the page.
One heart we could not reach.
Thirty-two stories left behind to teach.
One heart alone among us all.
Thirty-two stories a mourning call.
One heart with anger as its cell.
Thirty-two stories of those who fell.
One heart that would not heal.
Thirty-two stories read as we kneel.
One heart in the soul's darkest night.
Thirty-two stories shared and hearts unite.
One heart to learn to forgive.
Thirty-two stories to remind us how to live.
One love unites all souls.
Thirty-three times the bell tolls.