Remembering April 16, 2007

Today marks the five year anniversary of the horrific shootings that occurred on April 16, 2007 on the campus of Virginia Tech. From that day forward April 16th became a hard day for the Hokie family. We now call it a Day of Remembrance. A day where we all pause and remember the 32 innocent lives that were lost. Each year since the shooting I reflect on and around the anniversary. This year I deicided to write about that day. I was too close for comfort, teaching only two buildings over from where the shooting occurred on that tragic day.

Today I remember.

I remember it was a Monday that started with atypical snow flurrries. I remember how it felt to be inside McBryde Hall as classes changed at 9:55 a.m. knowing that someone had been shot, yet not having enough other information at the time to know the extent of the situation. I remember not knowing if I should leave the building or stay inside. I remember not knowing just how bad things were. I remember leaving McBryde Hall and running into a colleague on my walk back to Shanks Hall. I remember trying to piece together the limited amount of information we had at the time. I remember seeing more ambulances than I had ever seen at one time, in one place. I remember covering my ears to dull the shrill sounds of their sirens blaring over and over again. I remember the frenzied rush of people scurrying between buildings just not quite sure where to go. I remember hearing someone say the word “triage” as I scurried into my building. I remember trying to hold back the tears. I remember sitting in my office by myself on lock-down for over three hours. I remember watching the story erupt online. I remember watching the death toll rise, unable to believe what I was reading. I remember sending an email to my family and a few close friends. I remember walking to my car after they lifted the lock-down mandate. I remember feeling dazed. I remember crying. I remember watching the story erupt on news channels all across the world when I got home. I remember watching the story erupt right outside my window in the days to come. I remember calling my family. I remember exchanging “I love you’s” with them and so many close friends. I remember not knowing what to do. I remember attending the Memorial Service in Cassell Coliseum. I remember listening to President George W. Bush speak. I remember the most painful moment of silence I have ever endured. I remember watching the ambulance and rescue crew process into the Coliseum. I remember wondering what it must have been like for them to walk inside Norris Hall in the aftermath. I remember someone telling me that the rescue crew and paramedics heard cell phones ringing that would never be answered. I remember listening to Nikki Giovanni’s now famous speech. I remember feeling the first small sliver of hope. I remember the Coliseum breaking into a spontaneous chorus of “Go Hokies!” as no one knew what else to do. I remember the sadness and anger and confusion in the days that followed. I remember weeping for the victims and their families as the horrible truth sunk in. I remember thinking it could have been me. I remember giving and receiving hugs with complete strangers, with students, with other faculty, with superiors, with people I otherwise would not have hugged. I remember seeing camera crews, reporters, and signs of the media all over campus. I remember the story continuing to erupt right outside my window. I remember the banners from other schools that were mailed, the cards, the quilts, the names appearing on placards that would be forever ingrained in my heart. I remember attending a candlelight vigil. I remember wearing the same Virginia Tech fleece every day that week. I remember pinning a maroon and orange ribbon to the lapel. I remember maroon and orange ribbons everywhere. I remember mourning. I remember not understanding how someone could senselessly kill 32 people. I remember not understanding how it could have happened at Virginia Tech, one of the most special places on Earth. I remember feeling frustration about how this crime tainted the views of Virginia Tech worldwide. I remember sadness as they tried to point the blame on the administration.  I remember praying. I remember trying to move forward during the week classes were canceled. I remember the survivors from Norris Hall stepping forward and sharing their harrowing stories of survival, some of which involved jumping out of windows. I remember them recounting professors who jumped in front of doors to save their lives. I remember thinking no one should ever have to endure such tribulations. I remember the Hokie spirit fighting back against the pain. I remember the Virginia Tech community coming together as a family. I remember more vigils, more banners, and more hugging, all signs of healing. I remember smiles through the tears, spontaneous “Go Hokies!” on campus, and leaders stepping forward to pick up the pieces of a broken campus, all signs hope emerging. I remember my brothers and a few friends making the trip to Blacksburg to help show support and pay homage to the victims. I remember walking back into the classroom only one week after the shooting. I remember trying  to be strong for my students. I remember knowing I would never forget. neVer forgeT.

I am only one person among many with memories from this day. I am not alone in how I feel, but I am forever reminded of the fragility of human life and the power of the human spirit.

Today I remember.

God bless.

About britta326

blogger, picture-taker, diaper-changer, runner

8 thoughts on “Remembering April 16, 2007

  1. I was living in Plattsburgh, NY at the time and coincidentally working with a fresh VT alum. He was still receiving his email at his Tech address and as he walked by my desk he said he got a disturbing heardjess@gmail.com from the administration, he went on line to see if he could figure out what was going on. When he came back to my desk, we were in complete disbelief. I couldn’t believe that such a horrible tragedy could touch such an awesome place and I felt so helpless. I wanted to be there to support my fellow Hokies. But, in the days that followed I could not have been more proud to be able to say I Am A HOKIE. Thanks Britta for keeping the memory alive, especially for those who are gone.

  2. Wrll written indeed Britta. I remember being at work and being in a total panic. Going to the candle light vigil was so moving as well as seeing all of the tents with cards and banners erected on the drill field. A moment in history that is so unbelievable. Prayers for families everywhere who continue to struggle.

  3. Thanks Britta! I have so many memories from that day and the weeks following and you’ve so poignantly captured them.

    • Thanks, Kim. It is so important for us to keep the memories alive — they will help teach the next generation how/why Virginia Tech embodies a powerful sense of community. And help us to remember to live for 32!!

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