I had spent most of my junior year checking out pretty much every college from Delaware to South Carolina. Yet none of them felt right.
Then one day a classmate randomly mentioned that he had been to Virginia Tech and that it was really cool. I checked it out online, and mentioned to my parents that I'd like to visit it if possible. My parents (who were going through this whole college search thing for the first time and were beginning to get paranoid that I was never going to find a place I wanted to go to), made an appointment to visit the school the following weekend.
I'll never forget the feeling I felt when we turned into the campus. Many people probably say that you can't fall in love (especially with a school) at first sight, but trust me I did. I remember driving up past Lane Stadium, and then driving past the dorms, drillfield and classroom buildings. I was absolutely sold. There was no where else I wanted to spend my college years. I knew that something about this school was going to make those years special. I knew it was going to be the place where I really discovered who I was, and it would help make me the person I was meant to be.
Once I started school at VT, I was determined to take advantage of every opportunity. Freshman year, I ran for class office, and was elected Vice-President of my class (at VT you hold the position for all 4 years). I also was a member of the Student Government Association and the Student Alumni Association. I often got to emcee the pep rallies, which I absolutely loved doing. I was also co-founder and vice-president of an organization that many of you probably have heard of by now- Hokies United. The group was created after 9/11 to help the campus deal with the tragedy of that day. We made the organization so that it could be reinstated in times of difficulty...which it was for things such as the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. I still remember sitting on the floor of the room that night hashing out the plans for the group with my fellow students... never, ever in a million years did I expect that it would be reinstated one day to help deal with the biggest tragedy the school would ever experience.
The activities I was involved in were only one part of my experience at Virginia Tech. The friends I made there are the friends I know I will have forever. They are a family to me. I also had wonderful relationships with so many of the teachers and administrators. When I said that the school would make me who I was meant to be, it was these people- my friends, the teachers, and the staff that made that all possible. I can truly say I graduated having accomplished everything I set out to, and I had grown to be a much better person all due to the support of these people. I graduated with a second home, a larger family, and a place where part of my heart would always reside.
Like I'll never forget where I was on 9/11, I'll never forget anything about April 16, 2007. In fact, it took me four tries just to write this post because the feelings are still so raw. Sometimes I struggle with that...struggle to figure out why, almost two years later, it still hurts so much. But I'm learning to give into it, because, after all, they don't exactly write grief books for massacres. They don't really have support groups for this kind of thing. You come to realize that there isn't a right or wrong way to deal with something like this. You learn to deal with it anyway you can by trying to figure out some way in your mind to semi-comprehend what happened.
It's hard to comprehend that level of evil. And if your sane, I don't think it's possible to ever really comprehend it. Putting chain locks on doors so that rescue workers can't come in. Shooting so many rounds that faces were unrecognizable. Taking the time to mail a video to NBC in between shootings just so the whole world could see even more just how sick you were. 32 innocent people killed. 32 innocent lives taken in such a horrendous fashion. 32 angels who should still be here today. It's a level of sickness that I never thought I would have to learn to try and understand...and have to try to learn to forgive. Sometimes forgiveness comes, and other days you take it back in anger. Anger at seeing another mass shooting happen in the U.S. Anger in knowing that as graduation nears, there will be empty seats for those who won't get the chance to throw their cap up in the air and walk away head held high with their diploma.
But you try not to let the anger win. When you fight through it, and through every other emotion that you have- the grief, the sorrow, the disbelief- these feelings that hit you on levels you never knew you would have to experience- you try to come out of them with a positive thought. You come to realize that this experience will always leave you with a wound on your heart. Yet, somehow, even though you have seen the worst the world has to offer, you can look around and realize that there is more good in the world than bad. And that's what makes you carry on.
In reality, this could have happened at any campus. Unfortunately, it happened at mine. Sometimes though, I like to think that if it had to happen, it happened at my school because God knew we'd be able to show the world that evil does not and cannot prevail. But we will prevail.
WE ARE VIRGINIA TECH. WE WILL PREVAIL.