Mourners pack Tech after attack

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Mourners pack Tech after attack

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<b>Community tries to come to terms with horrific attack</b>

Maria Tchijov, Cavalier Daily Life Editor

BLACKSBURG, Va.-- In a day filled with a constant barrage of media images of the shooter who took the lives of at least three of her friends and 29 others,Behnaz Bonyadian took solace as thousands of people patiently filed into Cassell Coliseum and Lane Stadium yesterday afternoon. The convocation ceremonyincluded remarks from U.S. President George W. Bush and Gov. Tim Kaine.

It was a "massive display of respect," the Virginia Tech junior said, observing the crowd. Nearly all entering the somber event wore Hokie maroon and orange as they donned memorial ribbons. During the ceremony, various public officials including Bush and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger offered words of solace to the community.

"No words truly express the depth of sadness we feel," Steger said after he received a prolonged standing ovation. "Words are very weak symbols of our emotions at times like this."

President and Laura Bush were in attendance at the event, and Bush addressed the university on behalf of the nation.

"We&#39;ve come to express our sympathy," he said. "In this time of anguish, I hope you know that people all over this country are thinking of you and asking God to provide comfort for all who have been affected."

Throughout the southwestern Virginia campus, students, university employees and faculty members tried to comprehend the senseless tragedy.

Choices Monday morning

Senior Kate Stuck of Granby, Conn. was sitting in class in Pamplin Hall Monday morning when she heard about the situation. One of her classmates, who had a laptop, received the first e-mail sent out at 9:26 a.m.

"We knew something was going on," Stuck said.

Her fears were confirmed when her boyfriend, under lockdown in Randall Hall, called her cell phone.

Unlike Stuck, Chris Cooke learned about the shooting first-hand through the first e-mail sent out about the attacks by the administration, and he decided not to go to class. He e-mailed his professor and asked to make up the lab. He said at that point he felt his personal safety was more important then the inconvenience of an 8 a.m. Friday make-up lab.

"It kind of makes you wonder if you are safe anywhere," said Anthony Linkous, a 25-year veteran maintenance worker for Virginia Tech. He said his wife called him frantically every half-hour, begging him to come home.

Addressing the situation

Two weeks ago, Amie Steele took over as editor-in-chief of The Collegiate Times, Tech&#39;s student newspaper. On Monday, she found herself in the middle of an international media hailstorm as her phone rang off the hook.

"Breaking news isn&#39;t my forte yet," she said, explaining that she rose through the ranks on the production staff, specializing in layout and design.

During the 24 hours following the shooting, Steele managed to sleep for an hour and a half.

For her, the most overwhelming part of the experience has been the international media presence.

"We are trying to get our own stories, conduct our own interviews, and they keep on calling," she said. "It&#39;s difficult to juggle."

Overall, however, she said she feels the media has approached the issue with sensitivity and has been respectful of the personal nature of the evolving situation.

The intense media attention on the shooting has forced university administrators and police officials into the unexpected position of answering not just to their local community, but to throngs of media outlets and their readership. To resolve these concerns Gov. Time Kaine, at the request of Steger and Tech&#39;s Board of Visitors, has commissioned an independent panel to review the way the incident was handled.

"It&#39;s the most horrific thing that has ever happened," said Laurel Stell, a senior from Charlottesville. "At first everyone was angry at Steger for not locking down the campus, [but] they never meant for anyone to get hurt."

Stell noted that because the gunman lived in a dorm and thus had a dorm key, he could have easily gotten into any residential area.

While students like Stell do not assign blame to the administration, other students and media outlets have done so. Some groups and individuals focused on other issues, such as gun control, have also jumped on the issue. Gov. Tim Kaine expressed his disdain for this behavior.

"People who want to take this event 24 hours afterwards and make this their political hobbyhorse, I&#39;ve got nothing but loathing for them," Kaine said in a press conference.

What next?

After addressing the significant dislocation and emotional trauma caused by the incident, the Virginia Tech community must prepare to resume core educational operations. Yesterday administrators announced that classes would be canceled until at least Monday. Norris Hall, home of the civil engineering department, will be closed for the rest of the semester.

Christina McIntyer, a professor in the human nutrition food and exercise department, remains optimistic that the university community will emerge intact.

"We&#39;re a strong community," she said. "If anything, this will bring us closer. It&#39;ll be a day we remember."

Cooke, a civil engineering major, said in the long-term he was concerned not only about the future location of his department but about the outcome of his coursework and grades.

He said he had several exams in the next few weeks and he was not sure if they would be pushed back or canceled.

But, even in the face of uncertainty relating to his academic career, Cooke said he did not want to be "standing idly by."

He and fellow members of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity got together to donate blood yesterday to help stave off Blacksburg&#39;s severe blood shortage.

The charitable activities in which many students are engaging provide much needed hope.

But for graduating seniors, Monday&#39;s events place a permanent stain on the bright celebrations of future opportunities many had been looking forward to.

"Graduation is now more of a memorial than a celebration," said Andrew Stone, a senior from Charlotte, N.C.

Monday&#39;s events have not only left a mark on the students leaving Tech, but also on the many potential new members of the university community.

"It is going to make people think twice about coming to Tech," Linkous said. "People want to know they&#39;re safe."

One of the core challenges everyone sees in the response to the tragedy is moving forward in a manner deferential to the victims of Monday&#39;s massacre.

"We&#39;ve got to get back into it sometime," Linkous said. "But we have to remember what happened."

- Alex Sellinger contributed to this article.

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Original Source:<a href=http://www.cavalierdaily.com/CVArticle.asp?ID=30193&pid=1583>The Cavalier Daily - April 18, 2007</a>

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Maria Tchijov

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The Cavalier Daily

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2007-07-31

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Sara Hood

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Meggie Bonner <meggiebonner@gmail.com>

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eng

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Maria Tchijov, "Mourners pack Tech after attack," in The April 16 Archive, Item #883, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/883 (accessed October 25, 2014).