Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thousands participate in Virginia Tech 5K race to chants of 'Let's Go! Hokies!'

Updates from April 16, 2009

Runners release balloons at the start of the 3.2 for 32 race at Virginia Tech on the second anniversary of the April 16, 2007 shootings. Around 4,000 people participated.

Justin Cook | The Roanoke Times

Runners release balloons at the start of the 3.2 for 32 race at Virginia Tech on the anniversary of the April 16, 2007 shootings. About 4,000 people participated.

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Updated: 10:51 a.m.

BLACKSBURG -- About 4,300 runners and walkers kicked off Virginia Tech’s second annual Day of Remembrance this morning to honor the victims of the April 16, 2007, shootings.

The 3.2-mile race began with balloon releases at the starting line on Alumni Mall. Thirty-two translucent balloons floated into the sky above campus in honor of the students and faculty killed in two shootings two years ago. Then another 3,000 biodegradable orange and maroon balloons were released by runners as they crossed the starting line.

Chants of “Let’s Go! Hokies!” echoed off of Torgersen Bridge as the runners reached the Drillfield.

The leaders finished in fewer than 20 minutes and the final walkers crossed the finish line on the Drillfield about an hour after the 8 a.m. start.

More than 3,000 people registered for the race. Another 800 walk-in participants were signed up this morning, according to the university.

Many Remembrance Day events this year are similar to those held last year, but the race is a new activity.

Tech senior Cameron Burkholder, who waited at the finish line to yell words of encouragement to runners after she finished, said she was glad the day started with the run.

“I feel so happy every time we do something like this as a school…To hear all the feet running together, literally, I teared up,” she said. “Because it just feels so good to be part of something. To be part of a family.”

With the names of two friends who died in the shootings written on a tag attached to her shirt, Tech senior Pearl Blevins walked much of the course. She isn’t a runner and wasn’t planning on participating. She said she thought about her friends -– Daniel Perez and Austin Cloyd –- when she decided to register.

“It felt like something they would’ve done, to be honest,” she said.

Blevins was in Switzerland last April 16 and said she felt miserable the entire day because she wasn’t in Blacksburg. She said she was happy to so many people out for the race, even those who weren’t on campus two years ago.

“It’s just really inspiring,” she said. “It’s good to see that people care.”

The next event begins at noon at the April 16 Memorial on the Drillfield. During this event, three wreaths will be placed at the memorial site -- one in memory of those who lost their lives that day, one to honor survivors and one to recognize members of the Hokie family who have died since April 2007. The program will recognize the 32 students and faculty who lost their lives that day with comments on the special qualities of each person read aloud.

-- Greg Esposito

Weather Journal

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