Hey It’s Terrific Tuesday again. How’s everything in your neck of the woods?
I have been on hiatus, but I aaaam baaack… I have to write and from what I have heard personally over the past two weeks most of you like
My Tech pillow and VT bling ring on April 16, 2007… We are Virginia Tech.
to read. Remember if you like this little column, you have to say so. COMMENTS are appreciated good, bad or indifferent, but help me out here– good is preferred.
Six years ago today I was one week out from my father’s death. First day back to work actually. I was up on North Mountain near Eagle Rock with Jerry Fraley when the first call came as I went in and out of service, quickly followed by a few texts. “There’s a massacre at Virginia Tech,” said my friend Deb Carter. She had alerted me on 9-11 as well. ” How many?” I asked. “Maybe 30,” she said. “That couldn’t be right.” said Fraley. I hoped she was wrong. It was surreal.
Jerry beat haste down the mountain in his truck and I hopped in the car and fairly flew back to the Herald where I worked back then. Disbelief flooded my mind as I traveled from Eagle Rock to Fincastle. “Surely this was a mistake.”
However on arriving, we a small community paper sprang into action. I knew a number of kids at Tech who had gone to school with my oldest daughter Brittany. Botetourt kids like Damon Ross, Ashley Marshall and Clark Rhuland. With little trouble I got cell phone numbers from parents and called. Clark had been the first intern I had ever worked with in the news biz. It was shocking to think they were all up there in the midst of such a terrible day.
Damon had seen students bloody and wounded carried from the hall by state troopers from his dorm room window overlooking the drill field. Pictures made famous by The Roanoke Times photographer. Ashley was back at her apartment. It was a somber few moments talking to them. Always a mother, I tried to comfort them. I wanted to make them better as much as I wanted a story.
Clark was the gold mine of information. He worked for the Collegiate Times as a sports writer/editor and gave up-to date information. Our Sheriff’s Department sent their SWAT team. Maj. Delbert Dudding gave me information on the training the Botetourt Sheriff’s Office had been doing since Columbine. That is when I first learned our Sheriff Ronnie Sprinkle and his deputies were “go to” people in situations like that awful day at Virginia Tech. They were heroic in their service. God Bless them.
Like everyone else I clung to each report. For a small paper we put out a decent section on the horror of April 16. I will never forget telling my children when I got home that day, “I am glad Daddy didn’t live one more more week to see that awful event at his beloved alma mater. ” My sons are there today. Third generation Hokies, they have maroon and orange in their veins.
Last year when the gunman shot the Tech officer, I had a student up there. My heart flipped when I got the first text during a Prevention meeting at Greenfield Training and Education Center. I quickly passed the info on to Blacksburg police and state law enforcement in attendance. They took off and I approached Kathy Sullivan who had a Hokie student, too. Ours were fine, but one cannot help thinking back to April 16, 2007. Yesterday at the Boston Marathon it was my first thought followed by 9-11, the Colorado theater and tears welled up when I thought of Sandy Hook.
Again. It had happened again….death to innocents. For the families of the victims of April 16, 2007, the days are six years past. They will view this day forever as the end of one life and the beginning of the next– so hard to live and imagine. Life without a child, a husband or wife. It will be something they learn to live with, but something that changed them forever. All of us, too, because in America on April 16, 2013:
“We are Virginia Tech.”
See ya next week.