It’s particularly poignant that I post this less than 24 hours after the horrid tragedy in Boston.
For me, life as a silly, empty-headed freshman sorority pledge ended six years ago today. The events of that day are burned into my memory, my sub-conscious, my every living fiber. It started off normally, aside from the sirens that woke me up a few minutes before my alarm that I dismissed as a car accident. I scrambled to finish a project for chemistry lab which had been delayed by a late return from our sorority retreat in Gatlinburg, TN, the previous night. The cold, blustery wind whipped around as I trudged down toward the Drillfield: the unofficial split between the residential and academic sides of campus. I can still feel the confusion as a few fellow students walked back up the stairs between Slusher and Price Halls, telling me that the Drillfield was closed. How my roommate and I tried to locate our friends already in class to figure out just what was going on.
I never really understood the idea of community until April 17, 2007. A campus of 25,000+ assembled in unimaginable grief. Instead of falling apart wondering why, we came together to push onward in memory of those 32 newest angels. I sat in the warm sunshine, a stark contrast to the previous day’s coldness, in the stands of Lane Stadium staring a the Jumbotron as it simulcast the Convocation service in Cassell Coliseum. My parents rushed down from Pennsylvania, picking me up before Nikki Giovanni delivered her immortal words while proudly wearing a sparkling “Hokies” pin. I didn’t participate in the first candlelight vigil, chanting, “Let’s Go, Hokies” or singing “Amazing Grace.” But I wore my maroon and orange every day for weeks, numbly answering strangers’ questions for months afterwards.
I could not have imagined how three years and a day shy of a month, 5000 of my closest friends and I graduated, permanently and totally defined by that our freshmen year. How every April, we return to one of the worst days of our lives to honor those we lost. To carry on in their memory and name.
Every time a shooting occurs in the United States, Virginia Tech is always referenced. The terror, fear, and pain from that day resurface in due course. I’m not going to use this post or my blog as a platform for my thoughts on gun control, but I do wish that members of the media could understand the pain that resurfaces every time they mention April 16th. How using Virginia Tech as a macabre benchmark doesn’t do anything to help anyone or anything. But, no matter what, we are Virginia Tech. We will not be defeated. We are the Hokies.