Usually I'm rushing out the door with my hands full of what feels like 10 different bags, a coffee mug, keys, and a bunch of other odds and ends. Typically I have 17 different things on my mind and a to-do list is already running through my head. Today is different. I'm sitting here on my balcony overlooking the city as I enjoy my morning coffee. I have chosen to slow down and enjoy my morning today as I spend a little time reflecting on the last 5 years.
Five years ago today, 32 of my fellow Hokies lost their lives at the place I cherish most. Thirty two beautiful, innocent, young, vibrant, and promising young students and professors were brutally gunned down while they were simply in class engaging in learning. Those 32 students and faculty got up five years ago this morning and they were rushing out the door to class with a hundred things to do and a million different things on their minds. Thinking about finals, graduation, job interviews, grading papers, finishing projects, and the list goes on...they never could have imagined that their lives would tragically end before any of that mattered.
On April 16, 2007 I was living in Harrisonburg, VA and I was completing my final semester in graduate school at James Madison University. I remember sitting at my desk at work when people started talking about a gunman on Virginia Tech's campus and how many lives were thought to have been lost. I picked up the phone to call several of my fellow Hokie alums to hear what was going on. I remember driving back to my apartment with fear for those who I both knew and didn't know back in Blacksburg and dread for the place I once called home. I turned on the TV and with shock I watched the scene unfold before me. National news and law enforcement crawling all over my pristine campus. The buildings I spent four years in were all over the TV with crime scene tape. Poor, innocent, and wounded students were being pulled from classrooms and stories of fear, desperation and heroism were being recounted for the National audience. I remember the tears rolling down my face as I couldn't believe that such evil and horror could overtake the place that I hold so dear to my heart. I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that so many people lost their lives in a place that is supposed to be safe and nurturing and hold so much promise for the future. I just stood there and cried. And cried. And cried. I remember driving from Harrisonburg to Charlotte for a job interview and as I passed by Blacksburg the tears were clouding my vision. I stopped on campus on April 18th and I sat on the top of War Memorial and gazed out onto the Drillfield. Amid all of the chaos, saddness, and tears,I felt at home and at peace. Virginia Tech can never lose it's magic and now we have 32 angels to look over our incredible Hokie Nation and the place we all hold so dear.
I feared that the world would now only think of tragedy when they thought of Virginia Tech but fortunately, my fears have not come true. For me, April 16th is a reminder to slow down and reflect. It's a time to think about the life I've been fortunate enough to live and appreciate all that I have. It's not a day to be rushed through but a day to be thankful and proud. It's a day to think of and pray for all of the families that lost their children, friends, and parents and hope that they have seen the light through all of the darkness.
To all of my Hokies out there, I love you all today and always and I'm proud to call you my family.