Tuesday, April 16, 2013

NeVer ForgeT

Six years ago today, I was walking to my 9:05 class and noticed the snow flurries.  I was looking at Norris Hall (a building on the Virginia Tech campus) and thinking to myself, "This is a weird day."  Little did I know what would occur a meer 40 minutes later in that same building.
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April 16, 2007 is a day I will never forget.  It's the day that the whole world learned about Virginia Tech, and not because of the innovative research coming out of our labs or our football team winning a National Championship (someday...).  It's because a person decided to invade a building and commit the deadliest school shooting, robbing my college of our classmates, our professors, and our fellow Hokies.
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The anniversary of this shooting is always a tough day for me.  But, instead of blogging about all of the pain and sadness, I wanted to share some of the stories of good on that dark day and in its aftermath in case you didn't hear about them.

While there are many stories of heroism that day, the person who sticks out in my mind is Professor Liviu Lebrescu.
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Mr. Lebrescu was a Holocaust survivor.  He taught Engineering Science and Mechanics and had an adorable wife Marlena.  When he heard the gunshots fired in the building, he quickly barricaded the classroom door with his body.  He then told all of his students to climb out of the windows and held the shooter at bay.  He was shot through the door, but most of his students managed to escape the classroom before the shooter entered.  A man who suffered through the arguable worst homicide in the history of the world just saved 20+ college students in exchange for his life.  THAT is a true hero.

Another story of heroism comes from the second victim of the day: Ryan "Stack" Clark.
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Ryan was an RA in a dorm, West Ambler Johnston, where the first shooting of the day took place.  He heard commotion in the hallway and went to see what happened.  He came across the shooter, who had followed a girl, Emily, into the dorm.  Ryan was just doing his job as an RA, even in the face of danger.  Although both he and Emily died that morning, he did what he could to keep his dorm safe and secure.  Who knows if only 2 had died in the dorm that morning had Ryan not investigated the commotion.

There are 30 more wonderful individuals who died that day.  Here is a link to Virginia Tech's Remembrance page if you'd like to read more about each of those individuals

The next people I'd like to talk about brought good to the community after the tragedy.  Their acts shouldn't go unnoticed, either.

In the evening of April 16th, a group of people (I believe it was our SGA) went out to find 32 pieces of Hokie Stone (the rocks that make up the building on campus) and laid them out in front of the main building in our campus.  Each stone was dedicated to a person who lost their life that day.
The stones are behind the American flags, under all the flowers
A candle was lit at the "top" of the make-shift memorial, and as you can see from this picture taken about a week after the shooting, this became a gathering place for people to mourn and remember.  This action hours after the tragedy is now a permanent spot on our campus.  I bet the people did this out of love and sadness did not know the impact they would have on the community--physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The Memorial Dedication Ceremony
Last, in an effort to comfort a mourning community, poet and professor Nikki Giovanni wrote a poem addressing the Virginia Tech community and presented it the next day, April 17, at a convocation held in our basketball arena.  I'm going to post the video, and I really hope you will watch it.
I sob to this day whenever I watch this video.  Her words have become a rallying point for the Virginia Tech community.  These words were comfort in an incredibly difficult moment, and as you can see at the end of the video, provide some much-needed hope to everyone who listened.  To this day, people quote this poem around this time of year.

I think that Nikki Giovanni's poem can also be applied to the Boston community dealing with their own tragedy.  It may take a while for them to feel this way, but they will prevail!  I know from experience that there is good that can come from a tragedy.
I want to close with a Bible verse.
"In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."
John 16:33
God didn't promise us a smooth ride through life.  Our world is certainly not perfect.  But, when something goes wrong in our world, there is good that will come of it because God has overcome the world.  There are people in this world that will always think of others first and do everything in their power to help others.  It happened at Virginia Tech, and it happened yesterday in Boston.  It's easy to get bogged down in all of the evil, but isn't the good so much better to focus on?

I hope I shed some light on some of the good that came from the Virginia Tech tragedy.  I hope that, as our country deals with another tragic event, we can focus on the people who are the heros in Boston rather than the ones who brought about the tragedy.

(If you have other questions for me about my personal experience at VT, I'd be happy to answer them.  You can leave them in the comments or send me an e-mail and I will respond.  I wanted my post to be about the good in this tragedy rather than what I went through.)


  1. Wow! I must admit, I wondered what you were referring to in your post yesterday. So struck to hear that you were there. Thank you for sharing your positive outlook. I think you have the right idea--it's important to realize that for the 1-2 crazies at the Boston Marathon yesterday, there were 999,999 good guys there, rushing to other's aid and making the world a beautiful place.

    1. Thank you! It's taken a while, but now I can finally see the good. I hope that our country can do the same in the light of the Newton and Boston incidents this year!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing! So many amazing acts of heroism that day in the face of such evil...

  3. I graduated the year before the shootings, but I remember being just as scared all the way from my new home in CA. Scared for my friends that were there. Scared for my family in VA and scared that this could actually happen in Blacksburg, my safe haven and the place I'm proud to call my home for four years. I love that town. I love that college and the thought of someone trying to tear it apart, just broke my heart. There is nothing more surreal and devastating than seeing your school on the news and being so physically far away that you feel helpless. Even more devastation to see Ryan - one of my classmates (we were both Psych majors) among the list of victims.

    I wanted to be there to hug my friends, show my support, but I wasn't. Though I felt love even out here on the West Coast. I remember the day of remembrance a few days after the shootings and seeing countless people on the streets wearing maroon and orange - OUR maroon and orange. It mad me cry and gave me comfort.

    Sorry for the stream of consciousness comment on your blog, but thank you so much for writing out your thoughts on this.

    Love from a fellow (obsessed) Hokie!


  4. This is an amazing post! I remember where I was when I heard about VT and it was such a terrible day. I like that you point out the heroes though, they can never go unnoticed! Also, that Bible verse is perfect, it made me tear up! Great post!