Our public schools were closed for almost a week. I would sit in front of the TV for hours watching the news and just weep. My husband would beg for me to stop but I couldn’t. It was like I was watching the latest box office Hollywood movie and I was waiting for the ending. Waiting to see that everything worked out, waiting to see this was not real, waiting for a happy ending. I didn’t get one.
Virginia Tech is as much a part of me as my arms or legs…something I never even think about because I’ve never lived a day without it. I was born in Blacksburg, spent my childhood in Blacksburg, graduated from Blacksburg High School, graduated from Virginia Tech, and now I raise my own family in Blacksburg. And I’m not the only one. This alone shows the kind of community I live in. My grandfather graduated from Virginia Tech. My father received three degrees from Virginia Tech, worked in numerous departments and eventually retired as one of the Vice Presidents. My brother and younger sister both received two degrees from Virginia Tech, and my husband is a graduate as well. My brother was a Beta Theta Pi on campus and my sister and I were both Kappa Deltas. It’s in our blood. My childhood involved watching fireworks on the Drillfield every 4th of July, bowling at Squires, ice skating on the Duck Pond, church at War Memorial and $2 tickets to football games where we would all meet in Section 2 and hang out. I graduated from high school in Burruss Hall, and as a student, I worked all over campus, including Donaldson Brown, the Copy Center, and the Corporate Research Center when it was only one building! And now I raise my family here. It has become an ingrained part of who my children are as well.
So where am I going with this post? I’m not sure myself. I could talk about gun control, school violence, or support for the mentally ill. Or I could get more personal. I could talk about what it was like to be on lock down in my own elementary school that infamous day. To watch the faces of students who had parents working on campus and pray they were safe. To be amazed by the professionalism of our staff as they continued with their teaching while they awaited answers about the fate of their own families. I could talk about the terror of every lock down since, including this past Friday when there was a school shooting at the satellite campus of New River Community College at our local mall. I could write about the unfairness of hearing kids who have been brought in from the playground asking so nonchalantly, “Are we on lock down?” I could criticize the world we live in for making part of my job description to see how many students I can fit in a classroom bathroom…just.in.case.
But I can’t. Not today. Today I’m just going to remember. Remember those 32 beautiful souls lost that day. Remember their families and friends. Remember the first responders who had to witness the horror in person that day. Remember the faculty, staff, and students of Virginia Tech who each have their own sad story to tell. Remember the Town of Blacksburg and the whole New River Valley, as we all had a connection in some way to the horrific events that day. And even remember the family of the killer. As I know nothing about them or their life since that day in 2007, I imagine they have experienced an unimaginable grief as well, just as any parent would. I’m just going to remember, and I hope you will remember too.