VT One Year Anniversary

April 16th has a lot of meaning for me. My great-grandmother was born on April 16, 1886. She died in September, 1986. Let me tell you that was one big cake we had that April. So for all my life, I always thought of my great-grandmother on the day after my birthday. I miss her horribly.

Until last year.

Last year, I got to work on Monday morning. Normal Monday stuff–meetings, conference calls, and so on. One of the girls I work with is closely related to high administration at my alma mater, Virginia Tech. Her phone rang that morning, and the rest of the day changed my life. We were getting updates from her husband and the administration at least an hour before they were shown on TV, if not more. Shots fired. Two dead. Eight dead. Fifteen dead. Wounded that had been shot in the head taken to Roanoke via ambulance because they weren’t severe enough to be treated at Montgomery Regional Hospital. Due to massive winds, no medivacs were allowed. And a head shot was not serious enough to be treated locally. The numbers kept rising, kept getting more gruesome and more horrific. 32 dead, plus the gunman, then many many more wounded.

When two airplanes flew into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, I sat in disbelief in front of the TV, watching the news, just like the rest of the country. I do not discount the severity of that tragedy, I have friends that were so distraught that they sought professional help and, in some cases, medication, to cope with the emotions and feelings that they were going through.

I never understood that until April, 2007. I had no desire to learn the details, yet for a week I could not tear myself away from the news channels, the CNN scroll, the specials on Virginia Tech. Learning that the first victim was a resident on the fourth floor of West Ambler-Johnston Hall was particularly troublesome for me. My freshman year, I lived in that dorm. I lived on the fourth floor of that dorm, in room 4054. Seventh door on the right. Room 4040, where the first victim was taken, I think was right behind the elevators. It hit me very close to home.


A year ago, I finally understood what my friends were saying when they said that they needed therapeutic and pharmaceutical help after the events of 9/11. The attack at Virginia Tech hit me harder than anything had at that point–the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, my good friend in high school dying while I was in college, even my Great Grandmother passing away. The school shootings affected me in a way that nothing I had seen in my adult life had ever done. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t watch the TV shows, the interviews, the follow-up, the hypothetical situation analysis, none of it. I have always been really good at denial and avoidance, but this time I couldn’t do it. Everywhere I turned, there was a reminder. Hokie Pride day at work. Hokie ribbons everywhere. I believed in it, but couldn’t handle it. My only escape was the Food Network. Heaven bless the Food Network Challenges and Alton Brown, it was all I could handle on TV for the next few months.

Watching the memorial, held at the school, where George Bush was put to shame by the words of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and especially Virginia Tech President Charles Steger. Never have I been more proud of my school and the people that attend as I was when Steger took the stage. All the flak that had been in the press about how he should resign, as he was responsible for the attack, in my mind was vindicated as the entire student body in Cassell Coliseum rose as one to show their love and support for Charles Steger and the decision and actions he chose throughout the course of the week after 4/16. I teared up when the impromptu Hokie chant started, felt a stirring in my chest when Nikki Giovanni spoke, and understood what many did not get–that the pride and spirit of the Hokie Nation can take more than a beating and will still stand strong and survive.

And now, a year later, we all take a moment to honor those gone and remember what has passed. So here’s to each of the ones who had their lives ended early by student gunman Seung Hui Cho:

May your lives be blessed, may your families find peace, and may your potential and good works never be forgotten.

One thought on “VT One Year Anniversary

  1. Pingback: Nostalgia | Hokie Thoughts

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