Wednesday, April 16, 2014

neVer forgeTting, but not defined

As I shared last year, April 16th is more than just another day on the calendar.  It's the day that my beloved alma mater, Virginia Tech, become known at a global level for a tragic reason.  Seven years ago, the Hokie family lost 32 of our own in a horrible way.
This is a tough week for everyone associated with Virginia Tech.  It hurts to remember that dark day in our past.  But, we have to.  We can't forget the lives of those 32 Hokies that were lost.  We can't forget how fleeting life is.  We can't forget the importance of living life to the fullest and telling those that mean the most to us that we love them.

However, we DON'T let this act of violence define our school.  There is SO MUCH MORE to Virginia Tech and the Hokies than this one event in our school history.  I was reminded of this when I saw this quote from Michelle Obama's address at the VT graduation in 2012:

"And that is why, when you all are out there in the world and you meet someone and you tell them that you’re from Virginia Tech, and they say, “Huh, isn’t that the school where” -- I want you to interrupt them right there and say, “Yes, it is the school where we have some of the best academic programs and professors in the country." That’s what you tell them. You tell them, "Yes, it is the school where students are passionate about serving their country and supporting each other. And by the way, which also has the best campus food you’ll ever eat." Who can say that? You tell them, “Yes, it’s the school where we produce graduates who are leaders in their industries, and pillars of their communities, and who carry their Hokie pride with them every day for the rest of their lives." You say, “Yes, that is the school I attend. That is Virginia Tech.” 

If anything were to define Virginia Tech regarding the shooting, it should be the spirit of giving and the evidence of Hokie pride that the world saw immediately afterward.  That spirit and pride in our university continues today.  Each year, I'm amazed at all of the things I hear Hokies are doing to remember the tragedy in a positive way.  One of the shooting victims wrote an article recently about his experience and how he now works to keep illegal guns out of dangerous hands (read this is incredible the strength Colin has!).  Alumni groups across the country get together for a day of service around this time of year.  Individuals choose to remember the victims in their own ways, like trying something new and out of their comfort zone each year on April 16th.  Even the sibling of one injured in the shooting want people to know that Virginia Tech is more accurately defined by things other than this event (I read that article after typing my post--great minds think alike!).

Yes, April 16th, 2007 is a day we will never forget.  But, the Hokie community is not going to let the tragedy define us.  What Virginia Tech will be defined by is our spirit, our love, and our living out the university motto Ut Prosim (that I may serve).  I bet the shooter never intended his actions to bring the Virginia Tech community closer together and become stronger than ever.

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