BLACKSBURG, Va. – On Friday, people across the country and commonwealth will take time to pause and remember the 32 victims of the Virginia Tech mass shooting.
It’s been 14 years since that fateful day when a gunman opened fire in Norris Hall, but the commitment to commemorate is stronger than ever.
“April 16, 2007 is forever a part of Virginia Tech,” said Mark Owczaraki, University Spokesperson. “When tragedy falls upon the community, coming together and supporting one another is essential. That was one of the critical, critical lessons that we learned and experienced 14 years ago.”
However, because of the university’s ongoing dedication to limiting the spread of COVID-19, Virginia Tech will alter its 2021 Day of Remembrance events to promote physical distancing and discourage large public gatherings.
Instead of huddling close on the Drillfield for the annual vigil or running the 3.2 for 32 with thousands of other Hokies on campus, things will be done virtually.
“That commitment to remember totally supersedes a pandemic in terms of the strength and the will of our community. [We will find a way to remember and do so safely],” Owczaraki said.
The ceremonial candle at the April 16 Memorial will burn for 24 hours, but there will not be a public ceremony at midnight and 11:59 p.m. as has been university tradition.
Flowers and wreaths will be placed at the memorial and individual memorial stones.
As like last year, the 3.2 mile run for 32 will be done virtually. Participants have between April 16 and April 18 to get their steps in whether that be running, walking, or jogging.
They’re encouraged to post a picture online using #VT32Run.
“It speaks to that power of being together, being Hokie Nation, being a community. That is really the way you persevere,” said Owczaraki.
Owczaraki said even done virtually, these events help heal, “when tragedy falls upon the community, coming together and people supporting one another is essential that was one of the critical, critical lessons that we learned and experienced 14 years ago.”
This year there will also be an online remembrance gallery that will feature messages of hope that were sent to the University in the aftermath of April 16.
According to VT Special Collections and University Archives Online, Tech received more than 90,000 letters, cards, posters, banners, photographs, artifacts, textiles, books, certificates, and more from people and organizations all around the world, many of which were left at memorials on the Blacksburg campus.
Due to COVID-19, the University is unable to put these on display in-person so they are making them available online.
The remembrance gallery’s theme is “We Are Better Than We Think.”
“We believe it’s important to continue to offer emotional support to people. Even though it happened 14 years ago it’s something that continues to affect people to this day,” said LM Rozema, processing and special projects archivist. “We want to show these items to help people deal with their grief and give them emotional support and show that they’re not alone.”
Rozema said there will be between 50 and 55 items that people can scroll through.
The victims of the massacre were:
Ryan Clark, 22, Martinez, Georgia – Senior, English, Biology and Psychology
Emily Jane Hilscher, 19, Woodville, Virginia – Freshman, Animal and Poultry Sciences
Norris Hall (dept. bldg/classrooms) Ross Alameddine, 20, Saugus, Massachusett – Sophomore, English
Dr. Christopher “Jamie” Bishop, 35, Pine Mountain, Georgia – Instructor, Foreign Languages and Literatures (German)
Brian Bluhm, 25, Cedar Rapids, Iowa – Graduate Student, Civil Engineering
Austin Cloyd, 18, Blacksburg, Virginia – Sophomore, International Studies and French
Jocelyn Couture-Nowak, 49, born in Montreal, Canada – Instructor, French
Daniel Alejandro Perez Cueva, 21, Woodbridge, Virginia, originally from Peru – Junior, International Studies
Dr. Kevin Granata, 46, Toledo, Ohio – Professor, Engineering Science and Mechanics
Matt Gwaltney, 24, Chesterfield, Virginia – Graduate Student, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Caitlin Hammaren, 19, Westtown, New York – Sophomore, International Studies and French
Jeremy Herbstritt, 27, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania – Graduate student, Civil Engineering
Rachael Hill, 18, Richmond, Virginia – Freshman, Biology
Jarrett Lane, 22, Narrows, Virginia – Senior, Civil Engineering
Matt La Porte, 20, Dumont, New Jersey – Sophomore, Political Science
Henry Lee, 20, Roanoke, Virginia – Sophomore, Computer Engineering
Dr. Liviu Librescu, 75, from Romania – Professor, Engineering Science and Mechanics – A Romanian Holocaust survivor
Dr. G V Loganathan, 51, born in Chennai, India – Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan, 34, Indonesia – Doctoral student, Civil Engineering
Lauren McCain, 20, Hampton, Virginia – Freshman, International Studies
Daniel O’Neil, 22, Lafayette, Rhode Island – Graduate student, Environmental Engineering
Juan Ramon Ortiz-Ortiz, 26, San Juan, Puerto Rico – Graduate student, Civil Engineering
Minal Panchal, 26, Mumbai, India – Graduate student, Architecture
Erin Peterson, 18, Centreville, Virginia – Freshman, International Studies
Michael Pohle, 23, Flemington, New Jersey – Senior, Biological Sciences
Julia Pryde, 23, Middletown, New Jersey – Graduate Student, Biological Systems Engineering
Mary Karen Read, 19, Annandale, Virginia – Freshman, Interdisciplinary Studies
Reema Joseph Samaha, 18, Centreville, Virginia – Freshman, University Studies
Waleed Mohammed Shaalan, 32, Zagazig, Egypt – Doctoral student, Civil Engineering
Leslie G. Sherman, 20, Springfield, Virginia – Junior, History and International Relations
Maxine Turner, 22, Vienna, Virginia – Senior, Chemical Engineering
Nicole Regina White, 20, Smithfield, Virginia – Sophomore, International Studies