The groom wrote his own vows expressing his love by saying, “My anticipation for our marriage is similar to that of Virginia Tech fans eagerly awaiting their football team to enter the stadium. “Enter Sandman” is blaring in the background as the anticipation builds. The music gets louder, the fans begin screaming and jumping up and down waiting for their beloved team. As the players run onto the field the crowd erupts with enthusiastic cheers of “Go Hokies!” That is the excitement I feel getting married to you.”
Wow! I wanted to jump up and down just hearing him.
Why? I too am a proud graduate of Virginia Tech and just like other “Hokies,” we love our school. So, what does an old “Hokie” remember?
- The drill field. On frequently foggy mornings people eerily appear out of nowhere.
- A stadium on a cold, windy mountain where sitting through games is a test of endurance.
- The Duck Pond surrounded by nature’s beauty where lovers meet and romance blooms.
- Dormitories grouped in fours or quads. Outside, you could toss Frisbees, while listening to loud music blasting from windows.
- School rings designed by each graduating class. Mine features an engraved door symbolizing the infamous “six-inch” rule requiring open doors whenever dates visited our room.
April 16, 2007 was supposed to be much like any other day at Virginia Tech. Nearing the end of the semester; most were preoccupied with upcoming papers and exams. Few knew about two students killed in what local police believed was a domestic disturbance at Ambler Johnston dormitory. But news reports around the world soon reported the grim news. Before the day was through, thirty-two people and the gunman lay dead along with others wounded.
A fellow pastor wrote: “I was in Roanoke, visiting a young boy at the hospital, when my cell phone buzzed. It was a friend, asking if I had talked to my daughter, Jacqueline, who is a student at Virginia Tech. He told me there had been a shooting at VT and one person was dead. I called my daughter to let her know and she told me she was already on the way back to school.”
“I finished the hospital visit and headed home. A report came over the radio that at least 20 students had been killed. I had to pull over at a gas station to sit a few minutes and compose myself. I called my daughter again on her cell phone. She heard the report, too, and had turned around to come back home. By the time I got home, the phone at the church office was ringing non-stop.”
“It was a rough first year, but my daughter still loves Virginia Tech, and so do I. My heart continues to pour out to all of those touched by this tragedy.” Rev. Anthony Busic
There were heroes. Ryan Clark, the resident advisor who lost his life trying to help a fellow student. Professor Librescu, a holocaust survivor who held the door closed so his students could jump out second story windows and escape. There were wounded students who managed to block the door to their classroom and prevent the shooter from reentering the room.
Who can ever forget the pictures of candlelight vigils or groups of students clinging to each other, crying and praying? There was Nikki Giovanni’s moving speech as she emphasized over and over again: “We are Virginia Tech. We are sad today and we will be sad for quite awhile. We are moving on, we are embracing our mourning. We are Virginia Tech. We are the Hokies. We will prevail. We will prevail.”
Now what? How should we remember this day? What can we do as time continues to march on?
- We continue to pray for the victims and their families.
- We look for opportunities to help others who are victims of violence.
- We continue to learn from mistakes made on that horrible day.
- We become more involved with our young people and look for ways to show we care.
- We are still God’s church: We pray, mourn, inspire, teach and witness God’s grace.
Jesus last words in the Gospel of Matthew 28 were, “Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” God is saying to us: Surely I am with you when you are down and when you are up; when you are torn and when you are whole. Surely I am with you when lives are cut short senselessly. Surely I am with you in the midst of tragedy and I will offer comfort and hope. Surely I am with you! Surely! Surely!
Nikki Giavanni went on to say: “The Hokie Nation embraces our own and reaches out with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid. We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness. We are the Hokies. We will prevail. We are Virginia Tech.”