So This is How it Feels...

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So This is How it Feels...

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So this is how it feels...Thoughts on April 16, 2007

Thank you for this archive. My world view changed on this day, and I appreciate having a place to store my memories. I'm not writing this as one who was there first hand. I am writing as a VT alumnus (B.A. Theater Arts and M.A. English) and a resident of the community, to share with others who weren't there first hand either, to witness how much it still hurt for this to happen to Virginia Tech, to Blacksburg.

That Monday morning, I was at work at my former job in Salem, VA (I work in Blacksburg now) when the plant manager, whose wife works on campus, got a call from a friend. "Wife is fine...in lock down, and can't call." The call was another friend who had heard from her sister, who works in Norris Hall. Her sister had managed to get a cellphone call out from the cleaning supply closet she and a co-worker locked themselves in after the shooting started.

I logged onto the web. The news headline read "Shooting at VT. 1 dead, 1 injured." I called my husband, who works second shift, woke him up, and told him to see if he could get some current news. He said he'd call right back. In the meantime...

My friend and co-worker, got a call from her little sister, an EMT for Christiansburg/ Montgomery County. She was on the scene, and her casualty numbers were much higher. She'd heard emergency radio reports of 30 dead or injured already...she said the first response workers were going room to room in Norris Hall, and reporting in what they found.

The news on the web went up to 22 dead. My husband called with the confirmed count: 33 dead including the shooter; injury reports still coming in. Suddenly, we knew how it felt to be members of the community that is the site of the "worst mass shooting in U.S. history." I had the sensation of the ground falling out from under me. So that's how it feels...

I immediately tried to call a close friend who is an English instructor at Va Tech. (This is well before Cho is identified as an English major.) I couln't get through. I sent an email, Let me hear from you soonest...". (It would be Tuesday morning before I would hear she was okay - as okay as any of us were at that point.) My husband called back to say he'd gotten in touch with another friend whose wife teaches in Norris Hall. She didn't teach on Monday...thank Heaven. But how many co-workers or students did she know?

I got through the work day, survived the I-81 commute home, and checked messages. There were two: my sister, also a VT graduate, and my mom. Both said the same thing. "This is awful. Call me and tell me how you are." I wept, appreciating the long distance hugs. Who was I to need a hug though? It hadn't happened to me. So I thought. Then I turned on the local TV news.

Probably nothing could bring it harder home to me, just how messed up the day had been, than to see every major news channel reporting live from what I still consider my town (although I live in the next town over now). My sweet, small, safe town. I knew then that everything had changed. Blacksburg and VT had lost something that could never be regained, that sense of, "that could never happen here." We all had to grow up that day. Students, Alumni, and residents alike. Time to shed those wonderful rose-colored blinders that life in a sweet, small, safe town can afford you, and see the world, and know that there was never any protecting ourselves from this. We still aren't safe. How do you shield against madness?

My phone rang all night that April 16. College friends I hadn't heard from in years called to share their horror and sadness. (The next day I got a card from my ill-tempered and often-estranged mother-in-law, "Hope your friends are all right...")

My husband got home from work Monday night around 11:45 pm and handed me a small ribbon, orange and maroon layered on black. A co-worker of his had spent the day making 100 of them to hand out at work. I pinned mine to my lapel with a VT logo earring (one of a pair I bought to wear at the 2000 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans). For a few moments I had the only ribbon like it...

Nikki Giovanni got it right at the convocation. We will prevail. Whether the media moves on or not. That Wednsday, a Virginia-based newspaper reporter called our house, and my husband answered. Our last name is Norris. Were we any relation to the namesake of Norris Hall, and if so how did we feel about this tragedy happening in that particular building? (We aren't related.)

Here on May 3, the funerals are over, the tears are still flowing, but now the media is backing off, at least on a national level. The scab isn't being ripped off as frequently, and maybe some true healing can begin. But there's no going back to who we were. Only moving forward. Let's go Hokies!

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Kim Norris

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2007-05-03

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Kim Norris

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eng

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Kim Norris, "So This is How it Feels...," in The April 16 Archive, Item #108, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/108 (accessed December 18, 2014).