Friday, April 27, 2007

Hokie Pride

People associated with Virginia Tech really love the university. That has been clear to me over the past two weeks as we have interacted with others and watched the community through the lens of the news media. People who have been interviewed on TV (including President Steger and other officials) have represented the spirit and pride I've always felt among the Hokie community. I feel proud to be a part of that.

It's good to know that Virginia Tech will survive despite the horrible act of a student who was hurting and dangerously disconnected from reality. Times like this seem to make our community even stronger. Sometimes I wish that feeling of closeness could last, but it is already starting fade as the wounds heal and things start to return to normal. I spoke to a close friend about the incident on the phone the other night. It was the first time I had discussed it in a couple of days, and the feeling of heaviness returned, making me realize that it had already started to dissipate in the midst of my normal routine.

I don't want to be misunderstood - Virginia Tech is a special place, but it isn't any better than any other university out there. With all of the attention that was focused on us, I don't want people to get the feeling that we are better or more important than anybody else. The support I've felt from members of other university communities has shown me that there are many places out there that could overcome and grow from an experience like this. Even schools like UVA and WVU who have at times been our bitter rivals have shown us love - I have a lot of respect for that. It shows that all of us understand what is truly important and what is merely different colored shirts that we wear.

So to all my fellow Hokies, be proud of your university. Support it and talk about it as you go through the process of grieving and healing. But don't let your pride turn into superiority or condescension. We needed our time in the spotlight and the attention and support of the nation, but don't feel like the rest of the world owes you anything more.

And to the rest of you, thank you so much for your support. We need it. We appreciate it. Know that if you go through trying times (and we pray that you don't), you will have a nation full of Hokies on your side. You aren't our enemies or rivals when it comes to the things that truly matter. But don't think that we'll take it easy on you if you bring your football team to Lane Stadium.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Until a few days ago, all of my memories that involved both great tragedy and Virginia Tech were focused on one day in the beginning of my Sophomore year. I remember coming back from breakfast at Dietrick to my dorm room in Pritchard hall to news of disaster involving an airplane and the World Trade Center. The residents on my hall and I watched CNN as another plane slammed into the other tower and the two buildings eventually crumbled, throwing our whole country into a state of terror and confusion.

Now, five and a half years later, I am dealing once again with an unimaginable tragedy happening a couple of hundred miles away from where I currently am, but involves a place and a community that I love and feel deeply connected to. Again, all I can do is watch the around-the-clock news with undivided attention, hoping for just another clue to figure out why somebody could feel so much hate toward something I hold so dear that it would drive them to murder and destruction.

At first, I didn't think this would affect me very much. I graduated almost three years ago, and I thought that maybe my ties with Virginia Tech were starting to loosen. Even though I visited often in the two years following my graduation, I've only been to Blacksburg twice in the past year. I only keep in touch with a handful of people that still live in the area. Then I found out that Brian Bluhm, a friend that I knew through church and the BSU, was among the victims. I started to read the biographies of the other victims on the news websites. The effect of each one of their deaths is felt far and wide. I mourn their early passing, and grieve for the family and friends that are left behind to deal with the loss.

I remember once making fun of Michael Vick when he came back to a football game to receive some sort of award. His acceptance speech consisted of about three poorly formed sentences, the last of which was "I'll always be a Hokie in my heart." Let's face it - public speaking isn't the reason he'll be remembered as an important alumnus. I remember mocking his words in the days following, and even now I'm not sure if he was being genuine or just trying to get some words out to please the crowd, but today, they resonate with me in a new and deep way.