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April 17, 2007

Blog: Virginia Tech tragedy

It's been awhile since my last blog post. Nearly a month, in fact. As a fan, I put a lot of time and energy rooting for my Virginia Hokies on the football field, then on the basketball court, and I needed a break. To get things going again, I was planning on a blog post title "The Off-Season" about how Hokie fans spend their time during the spring and summer before football starts anew in the fall.

Instead of writing about our fans and our football team, I am instead attempting to write about the tragedy that occurred yesterday on the campus of Virginia Tech. This is just a mere attempt, because it is very difficult to find the words to describe the feelings I have experienced since I learned of the magnitude of yesterday's events.

When I learned of the first shooting, and only one person was reported to have died, my initial thought was that some one got mad at his girlfriend. I was surprised, because shootings just don't happen in Blacksburg, but I wasn't shocked, because domestic violence happens all too often.

When the death toll went from 1 to over 20, I am not exactly sure what I felt. I was shocked, but I was also numb. During the early and mid-afternoon hours, it was a very surreal experience watching the story unfold on the internet. It was unfathomable to think that Virginia Tech would be the site of the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.

I went home from work at about 4pm, and I turned on the television. When I saw the images and heard the sounds of yesterday's events, it started to sink in. One image in particular hit home - it was a picture showing shocked students standing behind the glass doors of one of the entrances of McBryde Hall. I used to work for the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, and my office was on the first floor of McBryde. I used to walk in and out of those doors on a daily basis. It was disheartening to see students watching the tragedy unfold from behind those very same doors.

Last night, my thoughts began to drift back to my days at Virginia Tech, both as a student and as a staff member. There was never a time where I felt unsafe walking around campus or around town. There was never a time where I felt unsafe inside a classroom. For today's students, they will not feel safe anywhere they go for a long time. I simply cannot imagine what it is like to be a student, faculty, or staff at Virginia Tech right now, let alone to be one of the wounded or one who knows a victim.

College campuses are special places. I like to think that the campus of Virginia Tech is extra special, but everyone feels that way about their alma mater. When I walked around Virginia Tech and Blacksburg during football or basketball weekends, I was reminded of so many good times I experienced during my time there, and I felt a disconnect from the strife of the "real world". There is a youthful innocence that pervades college campuses. It touches everyone there, from the 17 and 18 year old freshmen, to the 60 year old professors who only know life in academia.

Yesterday, that innocence was ripped from the hearts of every Hokie, and it was stolen away from anyone who has spent more than a minute on a college campus.

Since the hours that innocence was taken from us, the Hokie Nation has experienced disbelief, deep sadness, and anger. Many of us are still in shock, and it has started to sink in for others. For too many Hokies, a friend or loved one has fallen.

However, in every cloud there is a silver lining. We have seen an overwhelming outpouring of support from members and fans of other universities and colleges. I have been deeply moved by the well wishes I have seen on our Rivals.com HokieHaven board, TechSideline.com's Lounge board, as well as TheSabre.com's The Corner board. I am sure there are many other internet message boards that have similar threads voicing support for the Virginia Tech community.

On behalf of Virginia Tech and the Hokie Nation, I'd like to say "thank you" for keeping our community in your thoughts and prayers. It is comforting to see the kinder and gentler side of the human spirit after such a horrific event.


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