It has been more than a day now since my Mom called me and told me that this was not a minor shooting, but that the police had announced more than 20 individuals were dead. It has been more than 24 hours, yet I still cannot believe it. I am still struggling to cope with this news, an event that occured at a place I love so much and hold so dear to heart. I am “in a fog” as I have been telling people.
I will write in this article what has gone through my head over the past day. Therapy, to a degree, and also to help others understand why this event has impacted my Hokie brothers and sisters and me so much.
Yesterday morning I was returning from St. Louis after attending a buddy’s wedding. As I was in the air, I was planning an upcoming article for TechHoops.com that I planned to write today. I was fresh with thoughts of my buddy and his bride, two lives now united. Meanwhile, little did I know that two Hokies had already been murdered, and an unthinkable massacre was yet to come.
After I landed at BWI, I headed to baggage claim to get my suitcase at about 9:45 AM. I stood right in front of the baggage drop, and sure enough, my suitcase was the first one out. “This is your lucky day,” muttered one passenger.
At that moment, approximately 30 more innocent Hokies were being senselessly killed with methodical precision. I can only imagine the horror going on inside that building, and the scars those that witnessed the murders of their classmates, professors, and friends will carry with them forever. But I was oblivious to all this and headed home.
My Mom told me over the phone at approximately 12:30 PM that the death count had been raised from 1, or 8-9 depending on the source, to more than 20. I couldn’t believe it. This couldn’t be. Not in my beloved Blacksburg. Not at my beloved alma mater. I had to get off the phone. My sister, also a VT grad, called shortly thereafter about an unrelated matter. I told her the news, and as I said it, I began to cry for the first time in my life about Virginia Tech. At least for the first time about something bad. At that moment, it started to become real once I had said it… “20 or more are dead.” I couldn’t believe my own words and quickly got off the phone and lost it. Death is not something I’ve had to deal with much in my life, I am fortunate to say. But to hear this news, regardless of where it took place, was too much to take. I cannot describe how sad I am for these people that lost their lives way too soon, and their families that have to try to deal with this tragedy.
I attempted to go into work for the afternoon, but that was a complete waste. As I sat in meetings in NE DC, my mind was 260 miles away. Back in a town I lived in for four years, and have probably made 100 trips to since then. My mind was obsessed with thoughts of the massacre. I thought of the victims. I prayed for the victims. I thought of those hurt, those that had to endure that nightmare, those that didn’t know about their child’s safety.
I also thought about the killer. Who could do such a thing? The event back in August was commited by an escaped criminal with no connection to the university. But, as we have now come to know, this act, the worst in U.S. history by a single gunman, was committed by a Hokie. It is still impossible for me to comprehend that. How could one of our own do such a reprehensible act? I don’t believe I will ever be able to understand how one person could do such a terrible thing, and the fact it was done by a Hokie stings even more.
It would be easy to hate the individual that did this act. To be angry at what they did. As for me, personally, I am chosing a different tact. That person is no more and now they will have to deal with the Big Guy in the sky. And they will have “hell” to pay, I believe. Instead, I am choosing to not return hate with hate. I am trying to focus compassion and sympathy towards those who are affected by this event. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering they are going through. My heart bleeds for them and I pray constantly that they find the strength to get through losing a loved one so unnecessarily.
I’m hoping some good will come of this event. But, to be honest, I have no idea what good could come from such an act. I am so depressed about all of this. I have not been affected like this since 9/11, which also had a special significance to me since I worked and lived near the Pentagon and watched the outer ring burn after the plane crash.
As Hoda Kotb said, a Dateline correspondent and VT grad, “I never imagined that this is the way Virginia Tech would likely go down in history.” It’s true. This horrible event is now what most of the world will think of when they think of Virginia Tech. Our school will never be the same again. We will always be brought up when something terrible happens like this. Since yesterday, I cringe whenever I hear the words “Virginia Tech” said. I’ve showed off my school with such pride to numerous friends, and now this.
For the first time in my life yesterday, I wasn’t proud to be a Hokie for a few minutes. This university I have loved so much since my Day 1 on campus in 1994 now left a bitter taste in my mouth. I have always loved not only our sports teams (as you can see in this blog), but the university as a whole. That’s why I was a tour guide in my days there. I loved sharing the campus with others and try to sell them on why they should come to VT. Since then, my degree has opened so many doors to me, brought me tons of happiness, and led to dozens of friendships with other Hokies. Suddenly, yesterday, I questioned all that in a knee-jerk reaction.
But then, over the course of the day, my pride returned. My pride returned watching newscasts and hearing broadcasters ask students, “You thinking of transferring?” Hearing those students emphatically reply, “No way,” made me proud. Seeing parents and students being interviewed on TV still in Virginia Tech gear made me proud. Hearing about heroes like the professor (Liviu Librescu – a Holocaust survivor) that lost his life while blocking the classroom door so his students could jump out the window made me proud. The support other schools have shown us on other message boards like Rivals.com make me proud. The Washington Nationals tribute of wearing VT hats in their game on Tuesday made me proud of the city I live and work in. These things showed our strength, our unity, our sacrifice. It showed good will among mankind. That’s what Virginia Tech is all about. We are one of the most tight-knit colleges I’ve ever seen, with pride in our university oozing out our pores (offensively, to some other schools, I might add).
Many people I work with couldn’t understand how upset I was yesterday. They couldn’t comprehend how much that place meant to me. And I even work on a college campus! It really showed to me how special VT is. I’ve received numerous emails and texts and calls from fellow Hokies, or good friends, that were devastated by this tragedy, too. My faith in the Hokie Nation is stronger than ever. We will get through this together. As I said to 2000 prospective students and their parents back in 1997, “I’m a Hokie, and I’m damn proud of it!”