Two years ago I was walking across the drill field and practically got clipped by a police car speeding over a curb. Figured it was another “bomb threat” since we had one just recently and kept walking. Cursing under my breath because it was so cold and the flurries and bitter wind should not have been there in mid-April; plus, I’m not a huge fan of the cold and still had a ways to walk. When I finally reached my office, I arrived to people staring at me through the glass doors and was quickly grabbed into the building.
“We’re on lock down! Stay in here!” And then the doors were chained shut. I guess our department had some extra ones from one of the labs or something. I don’t really know. I just remember feeling so trapped and still not understanding what was going on. Being a part of the university’s communications department, my director positioned her foil covered bunny ears and turned on the t.v. A shooting in A.J., right beside our office she told me. I walked to my desk. Sat. Stared. Head in my hands. Then tried to use my cell with no luck. Decided to call out with the office phone. Ah, luck. My mom hadn’t heard anything, but said to call her once I found out. I said I really just wanted to come home. I tried calling one of my best friends who quickly answered and said, “I need to call you back.” Click. Ugh, what’s his problem! Little did I know he was being shoved away from the building by police officers. His class was in that building, but he had been running late. Thank God. I try to call some teammates and finally get through to one. She’s frantic, asking me where I was at. “Stuck in my office building with chains on the door, can you believe this?” “Good, stay there. You’re safe.” Now, I was thinking what in the … I’m safe? What was really going on here? Then the call dropped.
Walking back into my director’s office, I remember sitting down in the squeaky rolly chair and being blasted by the news the reporters were saying. The number of deaths across campus kept multiplying. My director didn’t believe it at first. My head went back into my hands. I felt sick. Got up. Went back to my tiny office and got on the phone. Now, I couldn’t get through to anyone’s cell. I called my mom at her work and told her I was coming home.
By the time I was finally able to get off campus after the lock down and attempt to get in touch with people, it was evening. My teammate/”senior sista” had been in the building. Her class managed to hold the door shut with a table. Thank God. Yet, then I learned of one friend’s death. Shock. Attended the vigil. And then even later learned of another death. Sitting outside on wooden apartment steps crying and wondering how this terrible thing happened to them and our beautiful school.
The next day, I tried to help out with the communications team that was hit by a situation no one is prepared to handle. Media from near and far covered our school, asking questions, investigating, prying. I couldn’t do it. Waiting in line to get into the Collesium, not able to take the “back” way through the athletic department that I always did because the building was secured. President Bush was on his way to Blacksburg. Hearing the powerful words spoken by Nikki Giovanni gave me chills (and still does today). Later that day, I left town and went back home to be with my family, to sit and stare at the t.v. with an almost sickening obsession, but that’s all I could do. A massacre? Here? How could this happen to us, Virginia Tech?
Now, two years later, I sit here and remember everything as if were yesterday. It’s weird that last year’s anniversary didn’t hit me as hard. I think I was still in shock. I’ve been here at VT as an undergrad and graduate student. That’s a long time…and though my beautiful school will always be a special place to me, there is still a certain amount of sadness in my heart when I think of it. The engineering departments I teach in on campus were both hit hard by the events two years ago; Norris Hall houses one department, and the other is right beside it (where my office is). I still remember my first time this year walking into that building to teach and panicking in the stairwell afraid I would get off on the wrong floor, not wanting to walk onto that floor. I still can’t describe the eery feeling of those two buildings, especially this week. I just now am able to walk across the drill field again.
Yet two years later, I’m so incredibly proud that I’m a Hokie. So incredibly fortunate to have seen how truly powerful it is to see a school, a community, a state, a nation, our world can come together and embrace one another. Thousands showing up to run 3.2 for 32 this morning. People everywhere sending their kind wishes, thoughts, and prayers to my school and the families and friends still affected by that terrible cold April morning. I’ve learned to appreciate the little things more. I’ve learned to love the Hokie Nation even more.
I know this post will never do justice to the events of that day, and many of my thoughts are short and rambled (surprising since the images in my head are so clear). But I think after reading this post or maybe this post — both really made me stop and realize that school violence is a very real issue today. A place were kids go to learn. A place were kids go that is (should) be a safe place. I hope one day people every where will stop and realize how fortunate they are to have the opportunity to even be in school. I hope one day people every where will stop and realize that something must be done to stop school violence. Life is too short.
Though “some” don’t understand why, I took the day off from teaching today because this, on campus, is where I needed to be. Seeing the Hokie Nation come together again to celebrate the lives of those lost. To cry, but also be thankful. To remember. To embrace. To prevail. But this time, it’s sunny outside.
neVer forgeT. We are Virginia Tech.
So proud to be a Hokie.