Saturday, December 10, 2011
Emotions glisten at Tech vigil
A few thousand people gathered on the Drillfield on Friday to mourn, remember and try to find healing.
Sam Dean | The Roanoke Times
People hold candles and listen as speakers offer thoughts during Friday's candlelight vigil on the Drillfield of Virginia Tech's campus. At the end of the service, a booming call-and-response of "Let's go, Hokies" echoed in the night.
A Virginia Tech corps of cadets member plays taps during the memorial vigil for fallen Officer Deriek Crouse.
A Virginia Tech student signs a memorial banner on the Drillfield on Friday night.
- Candlelight vigil See photos from a candlelight memorial on the Drillfield at Virginia Tech on Friday.
- Thursday on campus See photos from across Virginia Tech's campus Thursday as law enforcement secured campus.
In today's paper
- Motive in Virginia Tech police shooting still a mystery
- Slain Virginia Tech officer remembered as a 'natural' on the job, devoted dad at home
- Tech student creates fund for officer
Hokie Nation and the Blacksburg community took a step toward coping with Thursday's police shooting at a well-attended candlelight vigil Friday evening.
The Drillfield flooded with small flames to commemorate fallen Virginia Tech police Officer Deriek Crouse, as a few thousand people met to pay respects, find healing and try to make sense of it all.
"Let us not be defined only by our response in tragedy. We know we are more than that," faculty member Susanna Rinehart said.
The program, hosted by Hokies United, consisted of speakers offering thoughts and a poem as participants held lit candles.
Many held their children tightly, some hugged their spouses while in tears, and others silently prayed or reflected. Police officers from agencies throughout the area were present.
Student Government Association President Corbin DiMeglio read a letter written by Lt. Joe Rader, a Virginia State Police officer who has helped work the case of missing Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington.
In the letter, Rader noted that he didn't respond to the shootings Thursday, but in his 26 years has witnessed numerous violent and senseless deaths.
"How do any of us learn to deal with these type of tragedies? Where do we go from here, and how can we keep our faith?" Rader said in his letter.
Rader's answer was to maintain his belief in God. He stressed that the community must once again come together and help each other, while honoring the lives that were lost and supporting those who put their lives on the line every day.
Rinehart's voice shook as she emphatically imparted words to put the incidents in perspective. She began her portion with an apology, because she said it is difficult to articulate what each person is feeling. Her words seemed to strike a chord because tears were shed as Rinehart's points hit home.
Tech's campus, Rinehart said, has been visited by violence too many times in recent years, causing those in the community to relive "fragments of a nightmare" each time. She noted that while they come together in times of tragedy, they should also make effort to touch somebody's life in times of peace.
Acts of violence, even senseless ones, always stem from some place of pain or emptiness, she said. People should take it upon themselves to fill those empty places in one another, Rinehart said.
"Were any of our hearts as open as they are now?" she asked.
Sophomore Molly Bond offered similar thoughts and said that Hokie school spirit shines always, not just in times of tragedy.
"I feel like it's been there the whole time," she said.
The service ended with a booming call of "Let's go ... " with the response of "Hokies!" resonating with a deep echo.
Freshman Dashauna Williams said this chant was the most emotional part for her because it's typically used during games and times of celebration, not moments of sadness.
She and friends Joy Cunningham, Rudney Danquah and Jasmine Mingo, all freshmen, and sophomore Jenae Green lingered to take pictures after the memorial. Many others were slow to trickle out.
Green, a resident assistant, said Thursday was a blur because she had a lot of concern for the students in her dorm. Most scrambled to get in touch with family members before the news story grew, she said.
The sense of togetherness on campus made her proud to be a Hokie, Green said.
"It really reminded me why I came here," she said.
Danquah mentioned her regret that Crouse's family lost a father and a husband, especially during the holiday season.
"Our hearts really go out to that family," she said.
Williams said the vigil was a good way to heal, and she hopes that Crouse's family realizes that they have thousands of supporters.
"They have the support of all of the Hokies," she said.
"And this shows it."