Over five years I've worn the t-shirt multiple times and have had the ribbon magnet on two different cars. They both say the same thing. Never Forget. Five years later, I realize that there is a slight irony to that statement. The truth is, I couldn't forget even if I ever wanted to.
Five years ago my home was attacked. The horror, despair, death and destruction took place within a couple of hours. The events were quickly followed by unending tales of love, sacrifice, heroism, support and hope. The juxtaposition of it all is still a bit hard to process even all these years later.
Five years ago, my view of the world was altered forever. You grow up and learn that bad things happen. That bad things happen to good people. You find ways to try and figure out, compartmentalize, and rationalize when you see those bad things happen. But nothing prepares you for something like this. Five years ago the most evil thing I could ever imagine happened, and a lifetime of thinking about it will still leave me wondering...why? Sadly, there is no answer that could ever properly make sense of this situation.
I used to tell people that living in Blacksburg was like living in a snow globe. You felt so safe and sheltered in this little town, away from it all, where everyone loves their maroon and orange. It's where I met my best friends, and where I learned to live on my own for the first time. It's where I jumped up and down at football games, and where I devoured coffee ice cream when pulling all night study sessions. It's where I spoke at graduation, and where I was given the opportunity to travel all over Europe. It's where I became who I am today.
Sadly, I'll never know what it feels like to live in a snow globe again. When you experience something like this, its stays with you forever. You've officially seen the worst that the world has to offer, and even though time and life marches on, the memory of it all is always somewhere in your mind.
But carrying that memory isn't always such a bad thing. It makes you more empathetic. It makes you cherish the little things. It makes you more appreciative of the love that surrounds you, because you realize how precious and fleeting it can be.
I am sure over the next few years our unborn baby will make multiple trips to my favorite place on earth. They will watch football games, they will try and eat a turkey leg, they walk around the duck pond, and maybe if they are lucky, they will even get to watch fireworks over the drillfield. They will learn that the appropriate response to, "Lets Go" is a resounding, "HOKIES". And I will pray every day of their life that they grow up safely, and that they are lucky enough to get to experience what it feels like to live in a snow globe.
But one day, inevitably, they will ask me about what happened. Why there are 32 stones with names on them on the drillfield, or why when they look up Virginia Tech online, the word massacre appears. And I will have to sit down and try to explain to them something that I find very hard to explain even to myself.
However, I do know what I will focus on. I will focus on the heroes who sacrificed their lives. I will focus on how people from all around the world reached out to lift us up. And I will focus on what it feels like to be a part of a community that supported each other through the darkest of times, and showed the world that we will prevail. I will focus on what it truly means to be a Hokie.
And I will pray, everyday, that if they ever experience something like this, that they are blessed to know those feelings too.
We are Virginia Tech. We will Prevail.