Just like my classmates in my English class, I was allowed Internet time after obtaining all of my secondary sources for my paper on The Grapes of Wrath. I still have that book on my bookshelf and considered re-reading it a few weeks ago. Then I thought, there are many more books out there that need a chance. I need not to be reminded again of the hardships endured by the Joad family.
I would usually always check one webpage: Fox News. It was my favorite news site. I got just about all my news from this outlet, something I see today as a problem – not because of Fox’s stigmatized, and often proven, bias; instead because I now know the importance of variety in my news taste.
Up pops the home page. The headline strikes me as I read the huge letters “22 dead at Virginia Tech.” I just stare at the page.
This is the first I’d heard of this. Mind you this was in 2007, the same year (and month) when Twitter spiraled into it’s own company. Nobody had a Smartphone in my class like they would today. Our news came from the television, the computer, and text messages. I was simply shocked by what I was seeing. I had no idea what happened and most of my classmates were in the same boat.
My high school was, and still is, in Southwestern Virginia. It’s about an hour away from Blacksburg, home to Virginia Tech and what is collectively called Hokie Country.
Now I never was much of a Hokie fan. My loyalty lied within the Wahoos up in Charlottesville. I never did like the Vick brothers; they turned me off to Tech and made me a lifelong enemy of the Hokie football tradition.
Tech was a popular post-high school destination for my friends. In fact, I’d argue the majority of graduates from James River High School who went to a four-year college in the Commonwealth ended up at Tech. That’s one of the first things through my mind. I knew many people who traveled that long ride down Interstate 81 to spend four or five years studying engineering, business, and veterinarian health. Were they OK?
I asked my vice-principal at the bus stop if she’d heard from anyone there. She said no. That caused a wave of panic. Could some of my friends be victims of this unthinkable atrocity?
I finally received that answer through a friend whose brother was in a Tech graduate program. All the folks from James River were accounted for as he could tell. That was confirmed a few days later when the victim list was released.
When I got home, I sat in front of the television and watched the accounts from WDBJ-7 TV, the station that earned Best Spot News Coverage from the Virginia Associated Press for their reporting. It was sort of eerie seeing the anchors and reporters continue their coverage live on the national networks.
What was perhaps most chilling for me was seeing the campus again. I had visited most recently in winter 2006 for a leadership conference. Much of our meetings were held in the auditorium at The Inn at Virginia Tech. This was the media room during the massacre. I sat in the same chair as reporters covering the deadliest shooting by a single human in American history. That’s enough to raise the hair on your neck.
The days that followed the shooting were even more troubling. As investigations continued, sights from even closer to home – Roanoke – were showcased nationally. Places I rode past every weekend. Places I had been. Places he had been too.
A perspective on things certainly changes when you are indirectly impacted. I never thought something like a massacre could occur at a place like Virginia Tech. Of course, since then, we’ve seen so much more evil throughout the country and world. Before then, it was only September 11 that we had to grieve about. Now, thanks to the cowardly actions of one, we have to remember yet another day of mourning.
No matter how much I despised the then near-perfect football program that whooped my Cavaliers each Thanksgiving, I couldn’t help but wonder why. Why did this happen? Who could do this?
And I couldn’t help but being a Hokie if only for one day.
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