Thursday, April 16, 2009

Good weather brings out Virginia Tech community for various memorial events

Updates from April 16, 2009

Virginia Tech's Contemporary Dance Ensemble performs to the Beatles' 'Let it Be' in Burruss Auditorium during the April 16 Remembrance Through Dance event.

Matt Gentry | The Roanoke Times

Virginia Tech's Contemporary Dance Ensemble performs to the Beatles' "Let it Be" in Burruss Auditorium during the April 16 Remembrance Through Dance event.

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Updated: 6:08 p.m.

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech students and employees and campus visitors attended various events this afternoon offered as part of the university’s second annual Day of Remembrance to honor the victims of the April 16, 2007, shootings.

The crowd is smaller than last year and the line of people viewing the April 16 memorial is more intermittent. Traffic into First Aid “comfort stations” offering counseling and water was light.

“I think they’ve come more for the water,” said Chris Flynn, director of Tech’s Cook Counseling Center.

He said the nice weather that brought people to the Drillfield to throw Frisbees or play with their dogs was a boost for people coping with the anniversary. Particularly because April 16, 2007, was such a cold, windy day.

“This is just such a beautiful day and it’s just so inspiring to see the families out here…I really think it [healing] is about spending time with people you care about.”

Some families gathered at one end of the Drillfield for a “lie in” to protest state laws allowing unlicensed vendors to sell firearms without conducting computerized criminal records checks on buyers -– the so-called “gun show loophole.”

The event was organized by Tech senior Aimee Fausser. She’s attended other similar events organized by Protesteasyguns.com. When she heard about a week ago that there wasn’t one planned for today, she got to work.

“I think it’s the perfect day to do it just because it’s when people are paying the most attention to the issue,” she said.

The lie-in drew more than 50 people who stretched out on the ground to represent those killed in the shootings two years ago. Several family members of victims attended.

“When the lie-in is finished we can do one thing that the [deceased] victims can’t do,” said Andy Goddard, whose son Colin Goddard was wounded in the shootings. “We can get up again.”

Colin Goddard was busy giving visitors tours of the refurbished second floor of Norris Hall. A group of students from Northern Illinois University who Goddard met when he visited the campus on the one-year anniversary of shootings there are on Tech’s campus today.

Standing in the room where he was shot four times, he explained where he was sitting and his thoughts of jumping out a window. With new lighting, wood paneling, carpeting and several other changes the wing where the shootings occurred looks completely different than it did two years ago. It was Goddard’s first visit since it was refurbished and he said he didn’t mind going back inside. The building will no longer host traditional classes. The renovated space will be used to house the university’s new Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention and communal learning space for the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics.

“I think they turned a negative into a positive the best way they could,” Goddard said.

The group of NIU students said they think they can learn from Tech students about how to cope with tragedy and help one another.

“Opening up this building for a center for peace studies, I think that’s an awesome idea,” NIU student John Sundstrom said.

-- Greg Esposito

Weather Journal

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