Hundreds attend Salem State vigil for Virginia Tech


Hundreds attend Salem State vigil for Virginia Tech


By Meghan Griffin/
GateHouse Media
Wed Apr 25, 2007, 09:36 PM EDT

SALEM - The vigil held at Salem State College on Monday began with the most important thing, the reason some 300 students and faculty had assembled: the 32-plus victims of the Virginia Tech shooting.

Michael Mitchell, president of the Student Government Association, started the vigil by reading each of the victims' names.

"We will keep them in our hearts forever," said Mitchell.

The students and staff who congregated on the lawn of Salem State's Central Campus were there to show their compassion and support in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech University massacre.

The hundreds who gathered at Salem State held candles, and they were all outfitted in custom made T-shirts displaying the Virginia Tech logo on the front and the phrase, "Today We Are All Hokies," on the back in honor of the university's mascot.

Candles lined the walkway leading to Central Campus, and empathetic students stood in groups as they tried to make sense of the tragedy.

The disaster unfolded April 16, at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va. The nation was shocked to hear that a student open fired and claimed the lives of 32 innocent victims, including 20-year-old Ross Alameddine of Saugus, before turning the gun on himself.

Salem State's commemoration began at 7 p.m., one week after the massacre. Mitchell, who played a large role in organizing the event, extended thanks to all those who helped organize the vigil, and to the Residence Hall Association for producing the T-shirts.

President Nancy Harrington, who will retire at the end of the school year, addressed the situation and called the mayhem at Virginia Tech, "immeasurable." It is important for students to remain united in order to stay strong, she told the crowd.

The vigil brought forward the realization that a disaster could strike unexpectedly at any time, and that no one is fully protected. "We hope and we pray that this is a safe campus," Harrington said, noting that there is no guarantee that such a tragedy will not occur in this violent world.

"There is no real way to prevent something like this," Mitchell added.

A recurring theme of the evening was the need for students to recognize those they may be alienating. Cho Seung-Hui, the student killer who went on the rampage at Virginia Tech, was reportedly a loner and outcast.

"People shouldn't feel alone in this world," said Salem State junior David Overton, who addressed the crowd when the organizers asked if anyone wanted to come up and say a few words.

Dressed in all black, Overton told the Gazette the shooting had a personal effect on him. After the 1999 high school shooting in Columbine, he said, he was questioned by teachers and others at his school.

Overton, a resident adviser at Salem State, said there should have been parts of the community to help Cho Seung-Hui, and that all schools need to be prepared for such an act before it is too late.

A few people, like Overton, chose to share their personal thoughts with the crowd. Jay Carey, a Salem resident and employee at the college's Center for Adult Learning, received an overwhelming applause after reading a poem he wrote about the incident.
"It's a shame," he read, "that we only pull together in the rain."

Students wrapped up the vigil by shaping a huge Virginia Tech logo on the lawn. Photographers captured the moment with aerial shots taken from the roof. Salem State plans to send the photo, along with five signed banners and two signed wooden Virginia Tech logos, to the Blacksburg school to show support.

Harrington was impressed with the turnout. She credited Mitchell for spearheading the event, which was entirely student organized. "The tragedy at Virginia Tech touched everybody," she told the Gazette.

Mitchell said they had to act quickly to pull together the vigil.

"The purpose," he said after speaking to the crowd, "is to give people a chance to reflect."


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Meghan Griffin / GateHouse Media, “Hundreds attend Salem State vigil for Virginia Tech,” The April 16 Archive, accessed October 29, 2020,