Last year I ran into the house after errands and taxi service to hear a message on my machine. My friend was just calling to see if I was okay and to make sure everyone in my family was safe. Not sure what she was talking about I called my mom to see what I was missing. She told me to turn on the tv to one of the news channels. And then proceeded to tell me that there were at least 2 people dead on campus and probably more.

As I sat in front of the tv watching images of very familiar places go by the count went up to 32 victims of a shooting rampage in Norris Hall…Norris Hall…where I took a couple of math classes and all of my foreign language classes…students locked behind the doors of McBride Hall…outside of West AJ…how could this have happened? My world seemed to tilt off its axis.

As the day wore on we came to know that all of our friends and family that were students and employees at the campus were safe…truly a blessing…but we felt the pain of the other families and friends that lost someone.

The victims were chosen at random, no particular pattern could be seen except for the community that they were a part of. There were musicians, dancers, engineering students, language students, professors, grad students…a completely random act of senseless violence.

As we sat captivated and awe struck by the violence it became clear that the gunman was not only attacking the student body and faculty but the entire university. How sad that this young man felt the need to take the lives of 32 people. How beautiful, the stories of heroism…Dr. Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, blocking to door to his classroom to save the lives of the students there with him…

But we were not destroyed. We rallied. We prayed. We wrote poems and songs and tributes. We made videos to honor the injured and the dead. We lit candles and we gathered and we held on to one another. We chanted…Let’s go Hokies!…Let’s go Hokies!…Let’s go Hokies! And we all showed that we were strong and united…a maroon and orange nation, held together by love of where we came from and where we are going. We showed that we could weep…We showed that we could stand in the face of adversity.

And now a year later…we still remain strong, united, saddened by the tragedy but stronger than ever…

I read earlier today that at freshmen orientation students were told that people will ask them the perpetual question: What is a Hokie? The correct answer is I am, I am a Hokie. If you said a prayer or sent out a good thought or shed a tear that day one year ago then YOU are a Hokie now too.

I know I quoted her in my post yesterday but the words of Nikki Giovani really sum up how I feel today. The same short excerpt here but if you didn’t watch the video yesterday please do because what she said is more than profound, simply stunning.

“We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid. We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be.”

We are the Hokies! We will prevail! We are Virginia Tech!

Update: Here is the link to the Day of Remembrance webcasts