4.16.07 - neVer forgeT

Originally posted 4/16/2009

Two years ago, right now, I was huddled in the back of a class building, in my studio. We were on the floor. I had my laptop and was checking cnn.com, msnbc.com and IM'ing with my mom & John's mom. We had no idea what was going on.

It turned out to be the worst mass killing in recent US history- 32 students and professors were killed. Just shot. Out of nowhere, for no real reason. It could have so easily been me. Been John. For some reason, it wasn't.

This is what I wrote that day:
This morning I had class at 9 am. When I arrived students who had passed WAJ (the dorm) said there were multiple police cars and emergency vehicles outside of the dorm. We all assumed it had something to do with the bomb threats of the last few days.

Later on in class we heard a lot of sirens heading towards the other side of campus.
At 10 am, after class my whole class headed to our interior design studio on the War Memorial side of campus. There I was able to check my computer/email. At 9:30 am we received an email stating that there had been a shooting on campus.

At 9:50 am we received an email that said “A gunman is loose on campus. Stay in buildings until further notice. Stay away from all windows”

At this point we decided not to continue with our class and went around and locked the doors on our building, shut our curtains in our individual rooms. Many students huddled on the floors of their rooms.

At 10:15 we got an email that said, “Virginia Tech has canceled all classes. Those on campus are asked to remain where there are, lock their doors and stay away from windows. Persons off campus are asked not to come to campus.”

Eventually from reading updates on news websites we heard that there was the second shooting in Norris.
At 10:53 we got an email that said “In addition to an earlier shooting today in West Ambler Johnston, there has been a multiple shooting with multiple victims in Norris Hall.
Police and EMS are on the scene. Police have one shooter in custody and as part of routine police procedure, they continue to search for a second shooter. All people in university buildings are required to stay inside until further notice. All entrances to campus are closed.”

At 12:30 we were allowed to go home, however without the buses running it was difficult- many of us carpooled (I live just off campus) with others that had driven to class today.

The whole thing has been surreal and not knowing exactly what was going on was nerve-wracking. I received so many phone calls, messages, IM’s all afternoon. I called my mom right when I found out about the first incident, however other than that many phone calls haven’t been going through due to the amount of people on the phones.

As far as I know all of my friends are safe, from what we’ve heard all of the students at the campus ministry that I attend have been accounted for, though I can’t say that we will know for sure for awhile.

It was ridiculous. I can't even explain it. Not knowing if there was still someone running around shooting, WHY they were shooting, WHO they were shooting. When we were leaving campus to go home, I got a ride with another girl in my studio.. we still weren't sure what was going on and we had to RUN across campus to get in a car. There wasn't cell phone service because EVERYONE was on the phone.

It wasn't until the next day that we actually knew the extent of what happened. We had a ceremony in the basketball stadium to pray and gather. We still didn't know names of victims, but there was just a huge need to be with other Hokies.. other people who understood what we were (or weren't) feeling.

we waited in line outside of cassell for an hour or so, and then another hour or so inside. and there were thousands who couldnt get in and started to fill the football stadium. in the middle of the ceremony after one speaker recited a poem "we are virginia tech", about how we will move on and persevere, everyone gave her a standing ovation, and then started our football cheer "lets go hokies". yes i am a big nerd, but it made me cry. the feeling that we are hokies through it all and we are all hokies together and will always be. and that we are all in this together and the huge amount of pain caused by 33 deaths is lessened because it is shared by the 30,000 students that are here currently, the hundreds of faculty/staff, and then the enormous amount of alumni.

In the aftermath, we received so much support from so many people.

we have recieved so much support from so many people. ive gotten messages from people i havent talked to or seen since high school, my dads customers are calling him, random news people from home have gotten in contact with me- yeah they want a story, but their first questions are how are we doing down here.

people from every school imaginable- ones i havent even heard of- are leaving messages on the vt livejournal group. texas a&m school of architecture has hung a banner in their school for us. ive gotten emails from people that ive never heard of that got my email off of the wesley leaders page.

it is amazing
what is even more amazing though, is that almost everyone wants us to know that their prayers are with us. yesterday at the convocation ceremony a random pastor stood up and requested that we stand and say the lords prayer- while it was a little uncomfortable because im sure there were people of other religions there, the sight of 10,000ish people standing and reciting the lords prayer, or just honoring religion and these people was amazing and an experience to never forget.

We got SO many care packages- from family, from other Wesley groups, and from people we didn't even know. The school had to open up a room where people could go to just get some of these things.. obviously there was no way to determine who should get what. I got a prayer shawl, hand knitted by someone, a handmade wooden cross, cookies, notes, etc.

The community outpouring was ridiculous. We had a huge community picnic.

this afternoon there was a community picninc on the drillfield. i think seriously every restaurant in blacksburg was there with free food. even chain restaurants- dominos & starbucks. edys's ice cream had a truck full of ice cream there. there isnt like an edy's store here, so it must have been just the national manufacturer sent ice cream for us. just small things like that amaze me- how supportive people are. there were thousands of people there. the whole drillfield was full of orange and maroon. it was awesome. i got to look at the memorials. in the front of burrus there is a ring of hokie stones- one for each person. on the stones are tons of flowers and just notes and everything from people. in the middle of the drillfield is a bunch of plywood signs that people have been signing and writing to the victims on. i saw random things like "im not a hokie and dont know any, but i came here from ny to support you all". its crazy.

We had a full week off of classes, but students were given the option to drop or take whatever their grade would have been had the shootings been on the last day of the semester. I continued most of my classes, but it was just SO hard to focus. Luckily there were only a couple of weeks left.

The night of the shootings, my sister completely decided that she was going to be a Hokie. She had been choosing between Penn State (I think?) and VT. Seeing VT and the Hokies on TV or something must have convinced her. The same day we lost so many, my sister joined us.

Last year was so hard for me on 4/16. I went to work, which ended up being a terrible idea. John was still down at school and got to participate in all of the anniversary/remembrance celebrations. I was bombarded with the news websites' articles and pictures. This year is a little better. I assume each year it will keep getting better. But I won't ever forget...

neVer forgeT .

We are Virginia Tech.

We are sad today and we will be sad for quite awhile.
WE are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.

We are Virginia Tech.

We are strong enough to know when to cry and sad enough to know we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech.

We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did not deserve it but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, but neither do the invisible children walking the night to avoid being captured by a rogue army. Neither does the baby elephant watching his community be devastated for ivory; neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

We are Virginia Tech.

The Hokie Nation embraces our own with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid. We are better than we think, not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imagination and the possibility we will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this sadness.

We are the Hokies.

We will prevail, we will prevail.

We are Virginia Tech.

by Nikki Giovanni

+3 years. It still hurts. 4.16.07.

Katie  – (April 16, 2010 at 9:48 AM)  

I'll neVer forgeT...HOKIE HUGS!

Meredith  – (April 16, 2010 at 10:00 AM)  

The cartoons in the middle make me cry. I am so glad that so many people and businesses were supportive afterwards.

Justine  – (April 16, 2010 at 10:54 AM)  

I can't imagine having to have gone through something like that. You guys are so strong, thanks for reminding those of us who weren't directly affected.

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