Resilient Hokies try to pick up pieces

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Resilient Hokies try to pick up pieces

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<b>Thousands honor fallen, rally hope</b>

BLACKSBURG, Va. - Resounding cries of "Lets go Hokies!" echoed off the walls of Cassell Coliseum on Tuesday, capturing the mix of grief and pride that marked Virginia Tech&#39;s first full day of coping with the aftermath of Monday&#39;s massacre.

The basketball stadium was filled with shouting students and community members, clad in the orange and maroon reminiscent of a Hokie Homecoming rally.

Only minutes earlier, the room had been silent.

The campus and the community gathered at the coliseum for a Convocation to mourn the deaths of the 33 students and faculty members who died Monday.

President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush attended the event, along with all of Virginia&#39;s congressmen, Gov. Tim Kaine and his wife, members of the university board of visitors, members of the clergy, poet and Va. Tech professor Nikki Giovanni and local officials.

"For many of you, your first instinct was to call home and let your moms and dads know that you were OK," Bush said.

"I know many of you feel awfully far away from people you lean on and people you count on during difficult times. But as a dad, I can assure you a parent&#39;s love is never far from their child&#39;s heart."

The 10,000-seat arena reached capacity about 20 minutes before the event began at 2 p.m. Several thousand people also camped out in Lane Stadium to watch the ceremony on the JumboTron, filling the football field and parts of the stands.

Many students rested their heads on friends&#39; shoulders and cried as speakers took the stage.

The Convocation marked the first time the Tech community was brought together after learning that a senior English major, 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui, was responsible for the shootings.

"How can we know if something like this will happen again?" junior Brandon Campion questioned. "That&#39;s like everyone here."

Later Tuesday night, as students gathered on the campus&#39; sprawling Drillfield for a candlelit vigil, a crowd of thousands stood silent for almost 10 minutes. The only sounds were of sniffles and camera shutters, as hundreds of photographers from across the world took in the scene.

But even that somber event would not have been complete without the inevitable shouts of "Hokies!" and thousands of candles hoisted in a defiant toast of light.

At one point, a stadium-style wave rippled across the field.

"This is definitely a football school," quipped Weston Hunter, a graduate student in the mathematics department.

Hunter said it felt right to remain on campus, even as many students left to be with family and friends.

"It&#39;s good to be here," he said. "This is the most relevant place to be."

Police confirmed Tuesday morning that Seung-Hui was the gunman in the shooting at Norris Hall, an engineering building, which left 31 people dead, including Seung-Hui. His death is being called a suicide.

An earlier shooting at West Ambler-Johnston Residence Hall left two people dead - resident adviser Ryan Clark and freshman Emily Hilscher.

Campus police Chief Wendell Flinchum said Tuesday that one of two handguns recovered from the Norris Hall crime scene also was used in the dorm shooting. However, he stopped short of saying Seung-Hui was the shooter in both incidents. One gun was a 9 mm handgun and the other a .22-caliber handgun.

Seung-Hui was a South Korean native and a legal resident alien of the United States, here on a visa. He lived in Harper Residence Hall.

His permanent residence is listed as Centreville, Va.

As of Tuesday evening, nine people remained hospitalized in stable condition and two in serious condition. More than 20 people were injured in the incident and taken to hospitals across the region.

As the names of victims leaked to the media, students found comfort and grief in the news.

"(Clark) was doing his job and I think that&#39;s the hardest thing to deal with," said senior Manisha Joshi, who was a resident adviser with Clark for two years.

Joshi said being around other people who understand what&#39;s going on has helped her deal with the tragedy. And even on such a large campus, with more than 25,000 full-time students, it is hard to find anyone who isn&#39;t somehow connected to the victims.

"You&#39;ve either had class with them, they lived on someone&#39;s hall, or you&#39;ve seen them around," junior Staci Hudy said. "I&#39;m waiting to see when individual memorial services are going to be held."

Many students are using Facebook.com to create groups for friends and supporters of the deceased. Some groups also have relayed information about those believed injured or dead.

Numerous students expressed the need for solidarity in this time of crisis, and even many of those planning to spend time at home elected to stay long enough to attend the group events Tuesday.

"I think it was a really nice thing that everybody got together," freshman Tiffani Price said after Convocation. Price said that her biology lab partner was killed and that one of her high-school friends still is missing.

"I think it helped a lot of people. It helped everybody feel they had someone who was experiencing the same thing as them."

Time is what students say it will take to move on and put this incident behind them.

The semester is scheduled to close May 2, with Commencement set for May 12.

"Please don&#39;t be concerned right now about how your academic situations will all work out," said Tom Brown, senior associate dean of students, at the Convocation.

"You cannot get your mind back on academics without first taking some time to take care of yourself."

Classes have been canceled for the remainder of the week to give students time to cope with the situation, and Norris Hall will be closed for the rest of the semester.

"I think going to graduation this year is going to have a different effect on a lot of us," Joshi said. "It&#39;s going to be a time to celebrate, but it&#39;s also going to be a time to remember."

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Original Source:<a href=http://media.www.dailytarheel.com/media/storage/paper885/news/2007/04/18/StateNational/Resilient.Hokies.Try.To.Pick.Up.Pieces-2848413.shtml>Daily Tar Heel - April 18, 2007</a>

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Erin France, Eric Johnson, Jessica Schonberg and Alexandria Shealy

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Daily Tar Heel

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2007-07-27

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Sara Hood

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Kevin Schwartz <kschwartz@unc.edu>

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eng

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Erin France, Eric Johnson, Jessica Schonberg and Alexandria Shealy, "Resilient Hokies try to pick up pieces," in The April 16 Archive, Item #844, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/844 (accessed April 23, 2014).