Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hokie Strong

Hello, dear friends. I know I had promised to wrap up part two of my Birthday Scavenger Hunt, but I felt the need to write about something else today.

Seven years ago, I was a sophomore at Virginia Tech. It was a cold, spring morning, the weather not unlike what we've had this week. I was awakened by my RA knocking at our door. Still drowsy from sleep, I heard her tell my roommate to "stay away from the windows." She had already left by the time I dragged myself out of bed and asked my roommate what was going on. She told me there were reports of a shooting on campus, and we had to stay in the room until we got the all clear.

That was it. We thought nothing more of it as we went about our business as best as we could while being confined to our dorm room. There had been a similar incident at the beginning of the year, but it hadn't really affected the campus.

It is shocking to me now to think about how naive we were--how hopeful, how innocent, and how unsuspecting we were of the nature of the world around us. My roommate and I shared a pack of crackers and a Mountain Dew, because we had nothing else to eat, and we watched some trashy daytime talk show. Sometimes I just want to so desperately to go back to that carefree moment, before everything we knew was changed.

I don't remember how or when we started hearing the news reports of what was going on--I just remember being completely numb and in shock. My roommate and I were both frantically sending Facebook messages and IMs, trying to account for our friends, because the phone lines were completely tied up. At one point, one of my friends told me there were 22 victims, and I flat out told her she was wrong. I said, "they must have made a mistake or a typo on the news, there's no way the number is that high." I wanted so badly for that to be true, for the number of victims to stop climbing, but it didn't, and in the end we had lost 32 of our classmates and professors.

Seven years later, I know I still haven't completely processed everything I feel about that day. There are a lot of emotions that I continue to push down when they come up, and there are other things I can't even discuss on this blog because they are just too personal. Seven years later, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to mark this day without being reduced to tears. We were all so deeply changed and so deeply hurt, all trying to manage it the best way possible.

I do know that I will forever be part of a community that will neVer forgeT, and I find strength in that, in the same way my friends and I found strength in each other during the remaining weeks we spent on campus that semester. I find strength in my family, in my parents, who arrived in Blacksburg the following morning.They did all they could and more for me and my brother during that time following April 16th. I find strength in my husband, who won't make me talk about that day unless I want to talk about that day, and is still able to comfort me even when I cannot articulate what is wrong.

I live for 32--on my best days, and on my worst days; through the mundane, the interesting, the highs and the lows. I live for 32 when I'm bored, irritated, mad, or unhappy, and when I'm overjoyed, excited, carefree, or content. Every day and every emotion is a gift that 32 from our Hokie community had taken away from them. I live for 32.

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