Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In remembrance...

I remember waking up one Monday morning and as usual, checking my email before I went to class. That morning there was an urgent email saying there had been a shooting in my old dorm, West A.J. 

I remember checking the local news--and being shocked when the news anchor was handed a piece of paper on screen and read that now 8 people had been shot. 

I remember my roomate calling me to ask what was going on. She was on her way to class in Norris Hall, and I told her to "come home right now!"

I remember staring in disbelief at the television as the severity of the shootings unfolded on every news station. It was surreal. All I could think was, "Is this really happening?"

I remember countless phone calls made and received. "Are you ok? What's going on? Where are you? What is happening?" I remember feeling a huge sigh of relief after finding out my roommates and closest friends were all okay for now.

I remember being called by the news station in St. Louis, asking for an interview--anything that would give them a different lead on the biggest news story of the year.

I remember the feeling of utter shock when the news reported the number of victims had risen to 32. The enormity of the situation was incomprehensible. Too surreal to fully process.

I remember gathering together with my friends, speculating and questioning the events of the day. Trying to make sense of this horrific tragedy that was overtaking our school, our home. All that was near and dear to me was being brutally attacked. 

I remember dreading the release of the list of victims' names--scared to think that someone I know might actually be on it.

I remember going to a prayer meeting that night. Watching as people I knew and loved broke down in tears, in anguish, when learning of those that had been lost--people that they knew and loved. I couldn't hold it in and I cried the rest of the night.

I remember sitting on the ledge of the chapel, looking out over the drillfield, watching as hundreds, then thousands of people poured out to the center of campus to hold a candlelight vigil. To come together and grieve as a community. As I tried to join the "Lets go! Hokies!" chant, my voice failed me as I broke into tears.

I remember sitting on the grass of the football field the next morning--looking at President Bush's image on the Jumbotron, a VT flag behind him, as he spoke from inside the basketball arena. I thought "is President Bush really here, at my school? is this really happening?" Still trying to make sense of what had happened the day before.

I remember my graduation from college a few weeks later...proudly beaming as I marched into the stadium. I was overflowing with Hokie pride--I had never been more proud to be part of a community; part of a place that was so united in spirit and strength. A place that had endured the biggest mass shooting in history.

I remember a lot of things from last April. The shock, the pain, the hurt, the uncertainty, the emotion, the dread, and the loss. It was a time that will be etched in my memory forever. And now, a year later, I'm back in Blacksburg, surrounded by Hokies that share the same experience of the whirlwind of emotions and effects caused by the shootings on April 16, 2007. 

I look back and remember not the tragic events themselves, but the love and compassion that resulted. 

I remember the enormous outpouring of support and encouragement from across the globe. 

I remember how the VT community came together in the midst of tragedy--to strengthen the bond of Hokie spirit that has been, and will always be, the defining character of Virginia Tech. 

I remember the accomplished lives of the 32 victims, and the lost promise of what they could have achieved in their lifetimes.  

But mostly, I will remember the unshakeable pride I feel for my school, Virginia Tech, and how we have overcome the tragedy of April 16th. 

As Nikki Giovanni eloquently said at the convocation ceremony, "We Will Prevail..." And in this time of reflection and remembrance, it's comforting to know that we have.

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