Let me tell you a little bit about this place where we live.
I drove out of campus yesterday and I saw three cars with Virginia Tech stuff on them, and I wasn’t even really looking for it. I saw my neighbor’s little VT flag in the yard. I currently live and work nearly two hours from campus and still, always, it’s as if it’s right here in town. We used to complain about that, sometimes. How people would buy maroon SUVs with orange trim. How all these people thought they were Techies when they had no connection to the school at all. But the thing is, they do. We all do.
This is our community, this big little corner of the state, southwest and central Virginia. Roanoke’s the biggest city, and really, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not so big at all. But you have Vinton and Salem and Bedford and Lynchburg, and you have Radford and Christiansburg and Pulaski, you have Catawba and Elliston and Galax and Floyd, and you have Blacksburg. They’re all cities, places of their own, but they’re like neighborhoods too, part of our bigger community. This is our community.
We all know someone at Tech, or someone who went to Tech, or someone whose son or daughter went to Tech, or someone who works there. On Saturdays in the fall we watch how seemingly every car on the road is flying Hokie flags, like a parade heading south down 81 to Blacksburg every weekend. Every kitschy restaurant in town has Hokie stuff on the walls. Every store in town sells Hokie gear. If your pets are very sick and your vet doesn’t know what’s wrong, you go to Tech. If you want to be an engineer one day, you go to Tech. If you want to play sports at a D-I school, you look at Tech. Virginia Tech is our school. It’s our hometown university and so many of us feel a connection to it in some way, big or small.
It’s weird to see our local anchors giving interviews to the big guys. It’s weird to see the big guys sitting in their chairs with Blacksburg’s gorgeous backdrop behind them. We feel weirdly protective watching our people in Blacksburg get their asses handed to them in press conferences. They’re out of their element. This is new to them. They’re grieving too. I want to ask someone to give them time to get it all sorted out. I believe they did the best job they knew how to do. I am sure they made mistakes. I am sure they will second-guess themselves for the rest of their lives, that in fact they’ve already started. I am sure there will be time to figure out what went wrong and where and how. I’m mad at bloggers sitting in California or wherethehellever calling the police and the administration murderers. I’m mad at journalists asking the Blacksburg Chief of Police what this says about the failure of Homeland Security, and making this into an agenda issue. Those are our people you’re putting through the wringer.
The bodies of the dead are in Roanoke. Their families are still being notified. There’s still blood on the floors and walls and desks and stairwells in Norris. I don’t want to see the cell phone video of the gunshots another time. I don’t want to listen and think about how every shot is someone’s life being blasted away. I want the right answers, the right things to say to my sisters, to our own students on campus. I work at a college. I have two sisters in college. I have a third sister starting college in less than two years.
And, you know, we recognize the far-reaching implications of this. We know that it’s bigger than all of us. But at the same time, we’re thinking, this is ours. This is our community. This is our school. These are our kids, our friends, our sisters, our colleagues. This is our grief, our sorrow, our confusion. It belongs to all of us.