Take a moment to pause today. Take a moment to appreciate everyone in your life, every day.
6 years ago today I woke up early, ran some errands, then drove to campus. Just before I reached the parking lot, I sat at a red light and noticed several police cars coming from every direction. People began to run the red light in front of the cops. I had no idea what was going on but I kept on going. It was Blacksburg, it’s a safe place, couldn’t be anything too bad, and I had work to do. I parked my car in the commuter lot and began to walk towards studio in Cowgill Hall. I don’t remember the exact time, but it was early, well before 10, and I wanted to get some work done for class which started at 1:00. As I walked towards the building I noticed a friend’s car in the parking lot and knowing her schedule (we didn’t have overlapping classes that day) I thought it was odd. Given that and the strange behavior at the stoplight, I called her to see what was up. She basically said something along the lines of “I don’t know what’s going on. We’re on lockdown again in Torg and they won’t let us leave.” Something people who didn’t go to Tech often forget, is that we’d already been on lockdown that year. It was also a Monday, the first day of classes. An inmate awaiting trial in the Montgomery County Jail had escaped custody after being taken to the hospital (from self-inflicted wounds) and fled into the wooded areas surrounding campus. Before later being captured, he was spotted on campus so classes were cancelled and the nearby buildings were put on lockdown. The rest of us were told to stay indoors. In typical, foolish college student fashion, the majority of us had taken the opportunity as an excuse to stay inside and drink, not realizing the severity of the situation. It was dubbed “Morva Monday” by most and, sadly, would be quickly forgotten after this Monday. So when she mentioned, almost sarcastically, “we’re on lockdown again”, that was obviously what we were both recalling. I remember her being upset about being late for a class or a test or something, but at the end of the conversation she said, “If I were you, I’d just go back home.” And so I did.
That Monday was April 16th, 2007 and by the time I got back home and turned on the TV, 4 people were dead. I sat on my couch, alone, and watched the numbers go up for the next 2 hours, frantically trying to get in touch with my roommates, who were all on campus. The news channel was saying people were shot in our studio building and I couldn’t even breathe. I would later learn that was mis-reported and it was in the building catty-corner to our studio – Norris Hall. I would also learn that the original number would ultimately multiply by 8. I located my roommates via text who were all safe but locked down on campus. One of my roommates, along with many more of my friends, was in the building across from Norris and I imagine they could most likely hear what was happening.
That day seemed to last forever. Classes were immediately cancelled for the rest of week (and later the semester was ended early). There was a candlelight vigil held the very next night where I not only connected with other friends who I hadn’t been able to get in touch with, but also ran into people I knew from other schools who had come in that day after hearing about what happened. People heard about what happened and came TO Blacksburg to be with us. That’s just incredible to me. The outpouring of support was absolutely unbelievable. Everyone responded differently, but so many of us wanted to stay in Blacksburg after it happened. Going home didn’t feel right yet. This had happened to our home, our safe place, and our classmates. We needed each other in those days and weeks that followed and that’s how we got through it. Together.
In the wake of recent events this day is harder than usual. But I hope everyone remembers the positive that overpowers events like this, people like this. In all the clips and video from both yesterday in Boston and that Monday in April at Virginia Tech, you can see people immediately rushing to help. So many people. It’s easy to overlook at first, but it’s overwhelming once you let yourself see it. I live every day and every experience for those 32 classmates who never got the chance, and tonight I will run, just a little farther than I thought I could, for Boston. I appreciate my family and I thank God daily for allowing me see the good and the positive change which can come out of situations like this. It’s beginning to fade now, but for the past 6 years, when people learned that I went to Virginia Tech, I’d get the “look”. Those people were wrapping my college experience up into one day, but it’s so much more than that. I’m part of one of the most fantastic, most inspiring families on Earth. I’m a HOKIE. And it hits me every now & again that there’s such a small group of people who can truly understand what that really, really means.
My heart is in Blacksburg today, but know that my thoughts and my prayers go out to Boston, to Newtown, to Aurora, to Littleton and to anyone affected by this type of random violence.