Thursday, April 16, 2009

Noon ceremony at Virginia Tech focuses on hope, remembrance

Updates from April 16, 2009

Corps of Cadets members carry wreaths from Virginia Tech's War Memorial Chapel to the Drillfield for a noontime memorial service on the anniversary of the April 16, 2007, campus shootings.

Justin Cook | The Roanoke Times

Corps of Cadets members carry wreaths from Virginia Tech's War Memorial Chapel to the Drillfield for a noontime memorial service on the anniversary of the April 16, 2007, campus shootings.

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Updated: 2:02 p.m.

BLACKSBURG –- A noon ceremony today to honor the victims of the April 16, 2007, shootings was similar to the event held last year. There were, however, a few small changes and one hiccup that was corrected before the hundreds gathered left.

After an opening speech by Virginia Tech President Charles Steger describing the importance of hope for the future, remembrance of those lost and admiration for those wounded, the names of each of the 32 students and faculty killed were read along with short tributes.

“We will never, we will never forget those who were injured or who were taken from us,” he said.

Steger spoke of the strength of the community helping people progress but added that “we all know that cheerful faces that we see today often belie turmoil that lies within ... the journey is not over, but we’ve made progress.”

The order of the tributes differed from last year, with those for faculty members read first. Wounded students read quotations from famous leaders about the importance of learning in between some of the tributes.

The tributes, some very similar and some entirely different from last year, were read by Tony Distler -– known as “the Voice of the Marching Virginians” for his introductions of the band at football games -– and Theatre Arts Department head Patty Raun.

The two speakers alternated, praising the victims’ personal qualities, interests and achievements. After what was thought to be the final tribute, the crowd of more than 1,000 stood in silence and families of victims sat while an orchestra played music.

After a few minutes the music stopped and Scott Johnson, a member of the university’s office of recovery and support, spoke.

“We inadvertently omitted a name,” he said. “Our deepest apologies to Peter and Cathy Read.”

He then slowly read the tribute for their daughter, Mary Read. He spoke of her deep faith, her role as a big sister and her work with Campus Crusade for Christ before concluding with a description of her personality: “Always happiest helping others. A sweet personality and a beautiful, constant, smile.”

-- Greg Esposito

Weather Journal

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