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04.16.2007

A good colleague from another department stopped by my office early on, and almost immediately his face crumpled and his voice broke.  "Do you think," he managed to ask, "our students will ever smile again?" "Yes," I assured him, "but — perhaps — not — THIS week." 

We have heard, have told ourselves, have said to the world, that we are a resilient community.  Well, yes, that too.  We have a lot to be resilient about.  Flip side is we are hurting, deeply, and it doesn’t seem to be getting easier, so there’s no way we can project that it will.

In the second half of May, a whole cluster of hazy weeks later, no doubt still debilitated, still grieving, still angry, I ponder the losses, which continue to mount.  I know I am not alone in any of that.  We need to talk.  We need to console each other, have an often gentle conversation, and we need to figure out how we got here and how to move on, have a sometimes robust conversation.  (Somehow, Tech faculty will be teaching fall semester classes in three months, and Tech students will be taking classes, and in fact some are engaged in teaching and learning this summer.)  Either way, we need to talk.

I have chosen to put up this page to carry two series of writings.  Part A here, a personal series, comprises writings by various people, whether during the first few days after April 16 or at some point in the weeks that followed.  Part B, an official series, comprises official statements from the administration, whether from the president’s office or from university relations, all bulk-mailed to one or more huge university constituencies.  Here I have simply reproduced the email messages, as they came, by date/time.  Each series is likely to be added to, and some of the personal materials, those subject to amendment, may be modified.

  

Part A — The Personal Series

 A1.  Nikki Giovanni, invited to be the final speaker at the Tuesday convocation that took place little more than 24 hours after the unspeakable events being addressed that afternoon, produced a poem as her convocation address.

 A2.  A visiting member of the Virginia Tech faculty made a comment two days in that led me to urge him to write it up.  He did so — as “They Remind/ed Us of Who We Are” — and I am grateful that he did and grateful to be able to include it here. 

 A3.  Like countless other people at Tech, I heard, especially those first few days, from scores of people from around the world.  One, an undergraduate, class of 1992, had taken a middling-sized class with me her final semester.  She began by stating, “I am sure that you don't remember me, but I am a former student of yours,” and she concluded:  “I just wanted to check in and make sure that you are OK.”  I replied, with appropriate detail, that of course I remembered her, and I added:  “The one bright spot in all of this immense sorrow is hearing from people who had been out of touch for far too long.”  From her then came a longer message, part of which appears here.

A4.  Those first few days, in separate messages to each class, I wrote all my students from spring semester and from last fall.  Here is the astonishing response from one of my students last fall about another of my students, in a different class, last fall — a striking portrait of a close personal and academic relationship, as one Tech student, Lindsay Morgan, a freshman, celebrates and mourns another, Leslie Sherman, who was in her second year of college when she died.

A5.  In the spring, I taught a class at the Higher Education Center in Roanoke, seventeen graduate students, all of them full-time area public school K–12 teachers.  One of them, Katrina Landon, wrote of one of her students, Henh Ly (Henry Lee), a brilliant and effervescent young man — sparkling in both intelligence and demeanor — who, less than a year before, had finished high school where she taught.  (This piece later appeared as an op-ed column in the Roanoke Times.) 

A6.  Beginning a few weeks after April 16, Bud Brown, a much decorated math professor who has taught at Tech since Marshall Hahn was president, summed things up from his perspective.

 

Part B.  The Official Series

B1.  April 16, 9:26 AM:  “Shooting on campus

A shooting incident occurred at West Amber Johnston earlier this morning. Police are on the scene and are investigating.

The university community is urged to be cautious and are asked to contact Virginia Tech Police if you observe anything suspicious or with information on the case. Contact Virginia Tech Police at 231-6411

Stay attuned to the www.vt.edu.  We will post as soon as we have more information.

 
B2.  April 16, 9:50 AM:  “Please stay put

A gunman is loose on campus.  Stay in buildings until further notice.  Stay away from all windows


B3.  April 16, 10:16 AM:  “All Classes Canceled

Virginia Tech has canceled all classes. Those on campus are asked to remain where there are, lock their doors and stay away from windows. Persons off campus are asked not to come to campus.


B4.  April 16, 10:40 AM:  “URGENT


B5.  April 16, 10:52 AM:  “Second Shooting Reported; Police have one gunman in custody

In addition to an earlier shooting today in West Ambler Johnston, there has been a multiple shooting with multiple victims in Norris Hall.

Police and EMS are on the scene.

Police have one shooter in custody and as part of routine police procedure, they continue to search for a second shooter.

All people in university buildings are required to stay inside until further notice.

All entrances to campus are closed.


B6.  April 16, 12:15 PM:  “Counseling support available

 
B7.  April 16, 12:41 PM:  “Shooting at Virginia Tech / Statement by President Charles W. Steger

 
B8.  April 16, 4:31 PM:  “Campus Update on VT Shootings

 
B9.  April 16, 10:00 PM:  “Planned Faculty / Staff Evacuation

 
B10.  April 16, 10:00 PM:  “University closed today; classes canceled Tuesday

 
B11.  April 17, 9:24 AM:  “Update for University Community Regarding Campus Tragedy

 
B12.  April 21:  “Remarks from President Charles W. Steger” — Neither “divide” nor “define” us

 
B13.  May 9:  “Internal Review of April 16, 2007 Events

 
B14.  May 16/17:  “Policy Memorandum from President Charles Steger”:  “no exceptions” regarding “requests” for “information”