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Ten years ago this university was shattered. Ten years ago, we pulled together.

Virginia Tech Commemorates One-Year Anniversary Of Shooting Tragedy Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

It has been…difficult to write this. Not because I don’t exactly know what to say, but because I don’t quite know how to say it. Today is April 16th, 2017. Ten years later and it still seems like yesterday, I suppose. I remember where I was when I heard about what happened in Norris Hall. I was still in high school, and my friends and I were sitting around in the library, hanging out. We heard SOMETHING was going on down in Blacksburg. At that time no one really had smart phones, so we had to get onto the computers in order to check whatever news source we favored. My heart plummeted when I read what happened. Virginia Tech wasn’t a nowhere place to me even as a senior- my dad (obviously) went to the school and I was considering it as well due to the strength of its architecture program. To hear that something that horrible happened to the school that I wanted to attend was…shaking. I couldn’t exactly describe what I felt, even now after thinking about it for a couple days. It obviously isn’t close to what those on campus felt, but it was…dread? Misery? Fear? I don’t think one word will ever quite sum up what anyone feels about such a hideous thing. I can’t even remember or can’t find the date for the open house that spring, but either I had just been down to the campus for the first time, or I was about to. I still have the Maroon and Orange Effect 2007 shirts for that year, even if I wasn’t a student yet by the time those games were even played. I think everyone needed that football team. A season where even after all the tragedy we won the ACC and came close to an Orange Bowl win. That team, as flawed and inconsistent as it was, was still a great team and brought on the second Virginia Tech football renaissance with Tyrod Taylor at the helm.

People asked me when the massacre happened if I still wanted to go to Virginia Tech. I thought the line of questioning was crazy. Why would this one event, this one hideous stain, dissuade me from coming to a school with that kind of community, that kind of togetherness and camaraderie? Everyone lived out the events of the 16th, sure. Even when I showed up on campus in August 2008, you could still feel the pall over part of the campus- Norris Hall was closed when I arrived and only opened in 2009. In and of itself, that empty building standing there where so many students had formerly gone to class was a grave reminder of what had happened that wouldn’t or couldn’t go away. Even if you knocked the building down, whatever replaced it would be the building that took the place of where the massacre happened. I suppose that didn’t quite make sense.

So it’s ten years later. While many of the professors are there, you’ve had multiple thousands of students go through the school that don’t quite understand what it felt like having that shadow over them. I think all the students there in 2007, especially the survivors, will always carry a heavy piece of their heart inside. But I write this because we still love our school. Virginia Tech was my only college choice for a reason. I went early admission because I knew that the quiet mountains of Southwest Virginia was the place for me. That I wanted to be part of that tightly knit community. That I wanted to be there for whatever happened next, because someone had to be. Going back and forth to Cowgill and Burchard Hall from D2/Owens and Miles Hall, I passed the memorial to the 32 people that died in that senseless morning almost every day. I still pray for their souls and hope that they’re in a better place now. But I know that’s difficult, to be honest. It’s hard to beat a place, an ethos, a people, a culture like Blacksburg, and it’s hard to find a better home than Virginia Tech.

Happy Easter everyone. For those of you that attend services today, please remember the 32 people that died in your prayers. Be proud alumni of the greatest school in America, and remember that we’re all Hokies together.