Here’s a video showing the Hokie spirit at Penn State’s weekend spring game.
Last Monday’s shootings at Virginia Tech were horrific; like other tragic events, the images will rest in people’s minds for a long time.
The images, and the realization of what actually happened, are most vivid in the minds of those who were in Blacksburg that day.
A week later, national news media from CNN to NBC to USA Today have covered the shooting and its aftermath from multiple angles; they’ve covered the shooter and the victims.
But it was Virginia Tech’s own student newspaper, the Collegiate Times, that really covered, and even scooped, the tragedy the best.
As the tragedy was unfolding, the Times‘ Web site was overrun with visitors: More than 1 million people visited the site Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times. That’s just a little more than the site’s average of 5,000 to 6,000 hits.
The Collegiate Times has since nearly abandoned a normal Web structure in order to account for the amount of traffic and the demand for updates it is now getting.
The site was updated frequently throughout the week with an almost stream-of-conciousness style. The first update last week was at 9:47 a.m. It simply reads: “Shots were fired on campus in West Ambler Johnson Hall in the early morning hours.”
They reported the information as it was available: “A gunman is confirmed loose…All classes are canceled…At this time, one death and one injury have been confirmed…Virginia Tech police have confirmed 22 fatalities resulting from the campus shootings today. The gunman has also been confirmed dead.” These updates ran from 10 a.m. until 12:23 p.m.
By 2:13 p.m., the paper had confirmed 32 deaths.
Many of the early updates were similar to those that national media were receiving, but it was the later updates that the Collegiate Times should be commended for.
The paper was among the first to update readers and Virginia Tech students on class cancellations and memorial services.
It was also the best source for local, student reaction stories. One of its reporters was also among the first to ask university administration why it didn’t warn students after the first shootings in the dorm.
More than anything, however, the Collegiate Times‘ coverage showed why local news media is important.
Virginia Tech students could turn to the Web site for up-to-date information about their own obligations and campus safety. Parents and alumni could turn to the site for coverage CNN couldn’t provide.
But that’s what a news organization is supposed to do. So what makes the Collegiate Times special?
The paper’s reporters, unlike so many others who covered the tragedy, are students at the university. They, likely, were personally affected or connected to victims, and may have even known the shooter.
The staff has been able to put its own emotions aside for the good of the Virginia Tech community.
Published online by the Daily Kent Stater at http://media.www.stateronline.com/media/storage/paper867/news/2007/04/23/Opinion/Vt.Newspaper.Staff.Deserves.Applause-2873303.shtml
We are told, throughout our lives, that when tragic events occur you find out who your true friends are. After the events of April 16th, I received emails, phone calls and cards of sympathy from other universities’ alumni chapters here in Colorado. One university went beyond condolences and instead offered a hand of kinship. This does not minimize the importance of all the other words of comfort, but rather emphasizes the efforts of one alumni group. Virginia Tech and Texas A&M share certain characteristics and aspects of their collective histories and campus life. Both universities were founded in the 1870’s as agricultural and mechanical, land-grant universities. In addition, Tech and A&M are the only academic institutions, outside of the service academies, to have active Corps of Cadets. Unfortunately, our two campuses now share the heartache of immense tragedy. On November 18, 1999, A&M experienced the loss of 12 current and former students during the collapse of their traditional bonfire. The remoteness of our schools creates a real sense of community that transcends those four years spent on campus and instead transforms campus into a home and the alumni and teachers into family. It is because of this community atmosphere that we are able to rally ourselves in times of grief. It is also this sense of family and kinship that brought me to Aggie Muster on Saturday night.
On the evening of April 21st I experienced an event so solemn honored and rooted in tradition that most people would have felt like an outsider. However, on this night, I was the invited guest of the Pikes Peak Texas A&M Club as they celebrated their 125th Aggie Muster. Muster is held every year to honor fallen students, both current and former, who have passed on since the last Muster. The evening begins with conversation, reminiscing and typical Aggie camaraderie. The room is filled with “Howdies”, hugs and handshakes, but everyone knows the importance of why they are really there. After a tremendous meal and several heart-wrenching poems and speeches, it is time for roll call. Throughout the evening, the members of this chapter, and every chapter across the country as well as the campus in College Station, selected the names of fallen Aggies that they knew personally. In this room of close to 100 Aggies, there were 30 who experienced the loss of a friend or loved one. As each name was called out, an Aggie in the room called “here”, lit a candle in remembrance and took their place at the front of the room. The “Victims of Virginia Tech” was the last name called. Fellow alumnus Tweed Ross (’92) and I called “here” and took our places at the front, candles lit, firmly in hand. At this point, Silver Taps was played; a version of Taps created especially for A&M. As the sound of sobbing echoed throughout the room, all I could do was think of Blacksburg, the smell of the Drillfield on a crisp autumn morning and how one day can bring so much grief to my home and fellow Hokies this week.
After closing remarks, the extinguishing of candles, drying of tears and hugs all around, the crowd left slowly filed out in a somber, reflective mood. There was something else, though, just under the surface, which I felt. Despite the events of April 16th and every other tragedy that occurs each and every day, there are two things that always remain. Hope and family. We are Virginia Tech. We are Texas A&M. We are the Hokies and we are the Aggies. We will prevail because we are more than just true friends. We are one extended family. We know for every hand we extend, we must also be willing to accept even more hands of support. But we are not a family of orange and maroon or maroon and white. We are a family of red, white and blue. It is because of those colors that we will always have hope in our darkest days. It is why we will always prevail.
Russell J. Bolish (’96)
VTAA Colorado Springs Chapter
As you struggle with these days, know the support the nation showers upon you. Know that you are held in the thoughts of many, many who would wish to extend hearts and hands to remove the pain and horror that you are experiencing…….and no one can. But we can stand with you and help to give you the faith and commitment to move on.
I would ask you to consider forgiveness, as this is the only thing that can heal the wounds and move you forward. True forgiveness for a lost and hurting soul who experienced his own hell day after day after day. We can only guess at his hurt and misery. Nothing can justify his actions, so that allows only the extension of love and heartfelt forgiveness as the healing balm within each one of you – and within each of us, for we too hurt as you do.
The purpose of this letter is to suggest that you, as a campus community, are in a position here and now to make a remarkable difference, for your university, for all of the colleges across the country and for our nation as a whole. You can bring a positive outcome to all of this by bonding together and creating some specific program that will speak to all of us, and honor those whose contributions were cut short. And with the attention you now hold, others will hear you. You as a student body can initiate some measures to enhance the value of life for everyone.
One initiative that comes to mind is a U.S. Dept. of Peace (www.thepeacealliance.org). Thousands across the country are actively working for the creation of a cabinet-level Department of Peace, which will address just those issues that led to the horror on your campus. A Department of Peace will work within families, within schools, within communities to address issues of domestic violence, school violence, bullying, gang violence, sexual abuses, abuse toward women and the elderly………so many of the distortions that can lead to the decimation of the human spirit and in the extreme to the ravage that you experienced. One facet of the Peace Alliance that has developed is Students for Peace, groups of high school and college activists across the country advocating for peaceful means and a U.S. Department of Peace. I could see you bringing that to the forefront on every campus across the country – possibly as Campus for Peace or some such identity. The time has come for a new paradigm – honoring those with whom we interact rather than resorting to indifference or abuse. And it can begin at the infant level and be taught in our schools, from pre-school up to and including the college level. Someone just has to light the spark in the hearts of our citizens and our legislators – and it could be you!
The Department of Peace initiative has been on the books for some years now and has received growing multi-partisan support. In the last Congress bills were introduced in the U.S. House and Senate. Those bills died when the new Congress was elected last year, so the bill was re-introduced in the House in early February this year as HR 808 and was co-sponsored by 52 House members. Work is now underway to re-introduce the Senate bill. Yes, it is a political issue, but not a partisan one. Every legislator across the country needs to support these principals, to allow each and every child to grow to adulthood with self-confidence, self-esteem, love and support. You can find more information at www.thepeacealliance.org.
Consider it, please. My prayers go with you.
“Virginia Tech students and staff return to classes/work today, after a roller-coaster week. They have a difficult task ahead of them, trying to re-establish some sense of normalcy in their lives near the end of a school year that seemed unremarkable until one of their classmates, a veritable volcano in human form, erupted in their midst, with such horrifying results.
The hordes of media people (who descend like a plague of locusts on such occasions) will, we can hope, be gone–except for a few of the most stalwart, persistent, and perverse hangers-on. The media does have its place in our society, I concede. Many of the images and interviews I’ve seen–and I haven’t really seen more than the tip of the iceberg, I know–have been needfully informative, thought-provoking, even inspiring. The Virginia Tech marching band playing outside the hospital windows for the wounded, for example, was a wonderful demonstration of the school’s solidarity and enviable “Hokie spirit”. In other cases, I have been dismayed by the insensitivity and excesses displayed by some reporters and media outlets–to wit, NBC’s less than judicial, exploitative use of Killer Cho’s “multi-media manifesto” (no further discussion required, I think).
It was agonizing for ME to watch one surviving victim, sitting in a wheelchair, being asked how he’s “going to get his head around” this experience (by Ann Curry, if I’m not mistaken). This question provoked a momentary wordless blank stare from the young man that said it all for me (i.e, he has no idea whatsoever, how, or even if, he will ever find a way to cope with it all). We–and they–more to the point, certainly don’t need this kind of thing.
At this point I’d like to address a few words to those who have a far more legitimate right to be on the VT campus this morning. We know you will never forget your lost classmates and friends. Nor will we. From everything I’ve heard about them they were, without exception, remarkably fine, wonderfully alive, beautiful people. In the spirit of the words of John Donne (“…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind…”) we are all, sadly, diminished profoundly by this event.
Please, if you can, though, do everything you can to put this thing behind you and get on with living the kind of lives that those who are lost cannot. Some of you will, I realize, be plagued by persistent, disturbing thoughts and memories as a result of the trauma you have suffered, both psycic and physical. I would ask you not to hesitate to seek out your friends, family members, and professional counsellors, if need be, to talk out your feelings. I hope that, ultimately, you’ll be able to find some sense of inner peace.
One thing I do know: you all possess a powerful, resilient strength of spirit. God love(s) you. God bless you. Go Hokies!”
It was evil that stalked
those halls for the innocent
as it always does.
Its hideous face masked
once again by humanity.
One of us-yet not.
Death again a coward’s blow
crushing life and hope
with its rage and hate.
Oh! Beloved ones lost,
love and joy snatched away,
our hearts left gaping wounds.
Our best words flail helplessly,
grief and pain the language
joining us as one.
Evil sees it’s work and waits
for another hiding place
within our separateness.
Oh! Youth remember evil.
Its ancient eyes revealed
within one of your own.
Make unity your shield.
Do not forget its power
to unmask evils face.
Let not lives cruelly taken
be evil’s great reward,
but memory be a flame,
A fire within you swelling
to extinguish evil’s chill.
Their deaths life’s victory.
Dear Hokie Community,
Still profoundly sad, I extend my deepest sympathy to all Hokies everywhere, and to all who are in sympathy with them in these dark hours. A college graduate myself, and the father of two wonderful young women college graduates, I can not fathom the pain suffered by so many as a result of a senseless, tragic, horrific act.
The following words offer a perspective better than I can voice:
REMARKS BY PROVOST CAROLYN “BIDDY” MARTIN (Cornell University, Ithace, NY)
“The media rushes, understandably, to cover the event, and the events
become spectacle, compounding the effects of depersonalization as
journalists and the public press for immediate and abbreviated
responses and analyses. How extraordinary, under those
circumstances, were the efforts of the students and alumni to express
their love of Virginia Tech, of one another, to hold open the gap
between their experience of the place and the violence and death that
were coming to define it. They had been robbed of friends, of
classmates, and of teachers; they had had the taken-for-granted
safety of the dorm room and the classroom shattered. They have lost
for now a sense of safety in the thrilling openness of university
campus. They did not want, in addition, to be robbed of their
experience of the place or their attachment to it; did not want their
murdered friends, classmates and teachers to be remembered only for
the horrifying way in which their lives were taken. Just as the
names and stories of the victims began to give a human scale and
texture to an otherwise surreally traumatic and depersonalizing
event, so, too, the students’ reserve and their claims to the
totality of their experience and attachment began to restore to them
all that they have learned and loved at Virginia Tech. In their
expressions of pride, they fight to have life and attachment prevail
over the isolation, illness, and rage that appear to have been major
factors in this horror.
In due time, there will be well thought out and executed responses, changes, and good will come from the bad, because that is the way most of us are. It will be very hard work changing our culture. It will take a generation at a minimum. While there are opportunities to improve gun management, the necessary responses will not be about gun management. While there will be changes in the law and regulations, any such improvements will not prevent another occurrance. The true responses must deal with rage. For where ever there is rage, there is destruction. Where ever there is rage, there is some means for great destruction. Even if there were no guns, there are devices, automobiles and others, that would enable great destructive force for someone intent on it. The public conversation must move to raising our culture very differently than we are now doing, just as the Hokie community conversation focused on the lost and the living rather than on the aberrant one.