There are days that people remember for the rest of their lives: birthdays, anniversaries, and deaths. For me, I will remember three days for the rest of my life: the day I married my wife, the birth of my son, and the day 32 people died at a place I called home for 5 years. April 16, 2007 was the day Virginia Tech experienced the largest school shooting in history.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was in my apartment getting ready for my first class when the first email came across about the shooting in West AJ, and then the phone calls began. Friends calling to see if this was real, to check to make sure I wasn’t on campus. The day started with fear and concern, and it ended with sadness, anger, and just a feeling of numbness. Questions came flooding from everywhere. Are you ok? Did you know anyone who was shot? What did this great university and community do to deserve such a tragedy? I considered myself to be lucky that I wasn’t on campus, I was also extremely thankful that the people closest to me at the time were safe as well. Also, I was amazed at how many people reached out to myself or my parents to assure that I was safe. A gesture to this day many will never know how much it truly meant to me.
This year is the tenth anniversary of this tragic event and over the years, I have been amazed at how one day truly colored the viewpoint of people towards myself as well as those who were part of the Hokie community. I never could figure out if it was just curiosity or pity that prompted these lines of questions, but they always seemed to be the same from everyone. I see you graduated from Virginia Tech, were you there when the shooting happened? Really, that must have been terrible for you did you know anyone? These conversations continue even today as people who don’t know me very well chat about their college experiences and college fandom.
Nikki Giovanni put it best in here eloquent poem, when she said “We Will Prevail”. As the days turned to months, the hurt was still there but it lessened little by little. The community which was so close began to heal, and focus on other university endeavors. On September 1st of the same year, the beloved Virginia Tech football team took the field for the first time since the tragedy. Something as simple as a football game brought back a sense of normalcy, a feeling of this is where we are supposed to be, and what we are supposed to be doing. I was in attendance for that game and of the hundred or so football games I have attended in Lane Stadium in my lifetime this one definitely meant the most to me. It wasn’t because the Hokies won, which they did. It wasn’t because they beat a highly ranked team because East Carolina wasn’t.
It was because in that fleeting span of 4 hours, a community that had been through so much finally felt better. The feeling was a type of relief, not complete relief, but a sigh as if to say the worst is behind us.
In this the tenth year since 32 of our fellow Hokies passed, I find myself still at a loss of what happened that sunny April day. However, I have never been prouder to be a Hokie. Like many others I have no doubt, I will spend a little time in silent remembrance today, never forgetting the sights, sounds and feeling of that day and week. At the time I believed Nikki Giovanni’s words were perfect, and they still are extremely powerful. However, I think they should be amended just a bit for this 10th year to “We have prevailed and We will continue to Prevail. We are Virginia Tech”.