Anniversary of massacre observed at Va. Tech


Virginia Tech observed a day of mourning Wednesday as the university canceled classes and held ceremonies to honor the 32 students and faculty members slain one year ago in the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

Wednesday morning on the Drillfield at the center of campus, officials, faculty and students gathered under a warm, cloudless sky for a reading of the names of the victims and remarks by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and university President Charles W. Steger. Thousands of students in orange and maroon, the school colors, listened as the names of the victims were read aloud, along with brief descriptions of their accomplishments, passions and beliefs.

"It has been a hard journey indeed," Steger told them. "It began with a shock and trauma and a flood of emotions. And in the ensuing days and weeks and months, we have searched for answers. We have searched for meaning in what is incomprehensible. And we have searched for rest in those sleepless hours in the night when the silence has been shattered by the barrage of our own thoughts.

"We have not found everything we sought, but at every turn we have found each other," he said.

Kaine called for a statewide day of remembrance and a moment of silence at noon, to be followed by a tolling of bells. He also asked for state flags to be flown at half-staff.

In a prepared statement, Kaine praised the "courage and strength" shown by victims' families. "We have been inspired by the resilient Hokie spirit of Virginia Tech, both in Blacksburg and around the world," he said. "Since that tragic day last April, the unshakeable sense of unity and hope demonstrated by the Hokies has touched the lives of people around the world."

Many students and others had come to the sprawling green Drillfield to lay flowers, handwritten notes, photographs and other tributes at the base of a memorial with 32 stones engraved with the names of victims.

On April 16, 2007, a student from Fairfax County with a history of mental health troubles went on a rampage in a dormitory and an academic hall. Seung Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people, wounding and traumatizing many others before killing himself.

A year later, junior Chris Gravely, from Wythe County, sat alone as music from a university wind ensemble floated across the Drillfield. "It's really good that we come together, but it's going to take awhile," he said. The anniversary, Gravely said, "had ripped open a lot of wounds for people."

Sabrina Alba, a sophomore from Salem, said that after a year her emotions had started to settle down, but they were now resurfacing. "It's hard to believe it's been a year," she said.

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