10 years ago, Virginia Tech wasn’t on my radar. I hardly paid attention to the news telling the world about the tragedy that took 32 Virginia Tech community members’ lives as a middle school student. But as we remember the shooting a decade later, this horrific day has never felt more real to me. I’ve spent so much time this past week reading and watching as much as I could about the events, the survivors, the victims, and this community’s reaction. I’ve talked to friends, faculty, and staff who were here on that day. And every time I learn something new, it hits me: these people woke up on a dreary, windy Monday morning not knowing that their lives would soon be altered forever. I can’t fathom the parents who had to race here in cars and planes not knowing if their child was alive or not, or worse, if they knew their child had already been declared dead from the shooting. I can’t comprehend the university having to tell its students that evil had pierced through their home in Blacksburg and that they weren’t sure of what had happened yet. I cannot even begin to understand how students felt to know their friends and fellow students had been killed or how people lost their next-door neighbors to something they couldn’t believe would happen in a place like this.
But what I can grasp is how this community came together, because that’s what Virginia Tech is now. One of the best, most well respected communities in the world. Because of this tragedy, we are a stronger community with a foundation rooted in love and loyalty. The reason I’ve been hit so hard this week and year is because of watching footage of and reading about the community after this happened: the “Let’s Go Hokies” cheer I’ve come to love became a cry of hope, the places on campus I’ve been to were a unfathomable crime scene, students my age and younger stayed on campus after the shooting and supported one another, the first football game became a huge moment signifying progress for the town and university, and surrounding colleges and universities ignored any sense of rivalry or competition to give their support to a struggling town and school.
I’m grateful for Virginia Tech embracing this 10th anniversary of the shooting through remembrance and community events. We need to remember what happened, those lives lost, and how far we’ve come since that day.
I don’t think the 10th anniversary falling on Easter Sunday is any coincidence. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I believe God’s a Hokie. As friends have encouraged me from around the country, this is a new hope, a new beginning, and a chance for us to look forward to the future. Today, I and many others, celebrate God’s love for us, and we as Hokies celebrate our love for our fellow Hokies. And although it seems hard to identify an incredible celebration of Jesus’s resurrection with a day of extreme tragedy, I think God is here with us to remind us that He’s here with us, supporting us, and giving us friends when we need a little more love.
Sending all my love to you all, your families, and Hokies everywhere today. Be sure to be kind to others, y’all. Life is too short to do anything but be kind and to love.