Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Day of Remembrance

Many of you probably heard about the Virginia Tech shootings that occurred 4 years ago today.  I will never forget that day.  My sweet Doc was in his second year of medical school attending VCOM which is on the Virginia Tech campus.  I wanted to share with you all an e-mail that I wrote 2 years ago to my closest friends and family.

A Day of Remembrance
For those who don't know, I live in Christiansburg Virginia, just minutes from Blacksburg, where Virginia Tech is located, where my husband's medical school is located.

Two year ago my world was rocked. I was pregnant with Alyssa at the time, and it was literally one of the worst "morning sickness" days that I've EVER had. (I throw up 17 times that day).

That morning I was laying in bed feeling terrible when the phone rang around 9:30am and it was Nate, the first thing he said was, "I'm okay". A chill ran through me. He said his school was on lock down, that they heard there was a shooting at one of the dorms, and that the shooter was was on the loose, and there was rumors that there was another shooting on campus.

I went into the the T.V. room and turned on the news. The news anchor was talking about the shootings and that as far as they knew 3 people were confirmed dead. Moments later someone walked on camera and handed her a note. I've never scene that happen before. She visibly went pale and said, "We have have confirmation that 7 are dead." I was shocked. I got up to call my Mom because at this point I knew it was about to become national news and just as I stood up, the power went out.

That day was terrible on so many levels. It was bitterly cold, and the wind was gusting at around 60 mph. There was snow flurries that morning. Somehow the wind knocked down a power line near my house. I didn't know what to do, but I knew that Nate was okay, so after visiting the bathroom again I layed down and took a short nap.

Nate didn't come home until 3pm. The power was still off, so we decided to turn on the radio and see if there was any other news. The first thing we hear was that Katie Curick just landed, Brian Williams was on his way, and the President of the United States would be here in the morning! We looked at each other terrified and both said, "What on earth happened." Then the announcer said, "30 are now confirmed dead.... it's the biggest massacre to ever occur on American soil." I can't tell you how grateful I was that Nate was okay. The shootings took place across campus from him.

Our power didn't come back on until 11:00 that night. We had 20 worried messages on our machine... many called several times, and their messages more and more frantic... I'm so sorry that they had to go all day without knowing if Nate was okay.

This all happened 2 years ago yesterday, but my feelings are still very raw. We attended the Day of Remembrance ceremony and I wanted to share my memories with you. West Ambler Johnston was where the first shootings took place. Two died here. He then walked to a near by post office, dropped of a package to NBC news, and then walked to Norris hall for his final assault. When he entered he chained the doors shut from the inside, so no one could come in, or go out.

Our Stake President Scott Hendricks, who is also the father in law of one of my good friends and my visiting teacher Toni was in the building when it happened. He bore his testimony at stake conference, it is something that I will never forget.

A couple days after the shooting we took the kids to sign the memorial wall. I can't believe how much they've grown in just 2 years.
The day after the shootings Pres. Bush came and gave a great speak, but was overshadowed by the amazing "We will prevail" speech by one of VT's professors... can't remember her name of the top of my head.
The basketball stadium where the service was held was full to capacity so it all over flowed to the football stadium.
Andrew was only 6 years old at the time. He was in kindergarten, but he was deeply effected by it.

Here are some quick pictures of the memorial wall we signed. There were thousands of signatures and messages on many walls.
Sorry, I didn't mean to post 2 of the same picture.
After the shootings a spontaneous memorial was created at the foot of Burress hall. Just to the right of this picture is Norris hall.

This is Burress Hall. Our campus is stunningly gorgeous.
After our visit to VT that day Andrew drew a picture and taped it to our wall. It's easy to see through the spelling to his message.
That night I wrote this letter to my family.
Dear Family,

There is so much on my mind today. Today we went over to Virginia Tech to sign the memorial there. I’ll go into that experience in a minute. There is so much on my mind. I feel like I need to get this out of me. This is probably going to be pretty long, but I need to write down my feelings so I can start to move on, and so I will never forget. Thank you so much Mom Evan’s for keeping these e-mails for me, this is going to be my journal entry for the week.

For mutual on Wednesday we met at the Bishop's house and had a long talk with all the kids about what happened. We talked a lot about our feelings, and who knew who. We also focused a lot about forgiveness, and not casting blame. Bishop said that he heard that Cho's parents have both tried to commit suicide. How traumatic would it be to have a child die... how much harder would it be knowing that he would forever be only known as the man responsible for the worst massacre that's happened on American soil. We all wrote letters to who ever we wanted to. Some wrote to the victims that are still in the hospital, some to the parents that lost a child, and some to Cho's parents telling them that we don't blame them, and that we are sorry for their loss too. We all felt so heartbroken for the loss of life, but a sense of forgiveness was very apparent. We are all working on uplifting the families, not casting blame or fault finding. It was however so hard to see one of my girls so heartbroken over this. Traci is 16 years old and knew two girls that were killed and is best friends with someone who lives two doors down from the shooter. She was so upset at the thought of, “what if he decided to shoot up that dorm?” It’s terrible to have your sense of security taken from you… it’s so much harder when you are so young.

Yesterday I had a Heritage Makers celebration with my new consultant Kelly. One of the girls that came is an ER nurse at Montgomery Regional Hospital where many still are recovering. It was amazing, and heart breaking, and inspiring to hear some of the stories. I was surprised at how much she was telling us, but then I realized that she has been working long hours and hasn't been able yet to see a counselor... I think that she really needed to get a lot off of her chest. She said that every patient that she saw was shot multiple times. One boy was shot through the bicep and it exited threw his right right tricep, and was also shot threw the left hand, he had one wound from each gun used. The boy said that he was shot once, and then the shooter left the room, and came back later and shot him again. She told us quite a bit that I don’t need to write, but that gives you an idea of how details can hurt to hear.

Every where you go you see people going about there business, but with something missing about them. A friend, a family member, hope, a sense of security. So many I've talked to are having nightmares. I have had nightmares every night sense this happened. Not just about the shooting, but I think it all comes from a sense of insecurity. I can't begin to convey how this shaken our community.

I went to Radford yesterday for my doctor’s appointment, and cried to see the marquees at restaurants saying, "God bless VT" "Our prayers are with VT". At Radford University there are huge banners hanging off of dorm room balconies saying, "We are all Hokies!" I think it's true. It doesn't matter how close you were to this, or how far you live from here. If this has affected you, touched you, hurt you, or made you cry, you too are a Hokie. We are a "Hokie Nation". It's becoming a symbol of unity. Like after 9/11 how everyone flew an American flag to show support, unity, and pride for our nation, the colors orange and maroon are going to be a symbol of unity... but I wonder, for how long? Like 9/11 slowly politics became too involved. Slowly we forgot the pain of that day, and the lesson that we learned. Slowly we all became un-unified. So many have to find someone to take out our pain on., they have to find someone to blame. How tragic does a day have to be for us to stay unified? How destroyed, damaged, terrorized or enslaved to we have to become before we truly become one and stay? Before we come unto Christ to stay? Already the psycho’s are coming out threatening other areas like California some guy threatened that he was, "going to make what happened at Virginia Tech look mild." I'm so devastated by the evil in this world. How cold do you have to be to do such a thing? If you are going to kill yourself, do it! And leave the rest of us alone! What makes someone so evil?

I know that this is long and rambling, but I really need to express what I'm feeling inside. I don't know what is coming in our future. How many times I am going to have to hold a devastated 16 year old in my arms because she just lost a friend, and doesn't know why.

My faith is strong, and I know that these are the last days and that there is just as much good as evil in the world, but I don't want to see the evil. Last night after watching a movie about Anne Frank, an 80-90 year old Meap .... (I don't remember her last name... she was the girl that primarily took care of the Frank's while they were in hiding.) said, "I am not a hero. I did what I did, because it was the right thing to do." I realize that all the amazing people in the world were not born to be hero's, they just did what was right when they had too. My ancestors crossed the plains, faced hardships, and buried children along the way, not because they wanted to be heroes, but because it was the right thing to do, and they became hero's because they endured it well. I'm just afraid that in these last days many of us will have to face things like this. Many of us may have to rise to different occasions and become “hero’s” ourselves. I will rise to any occasion… but I would rather live a quite peaceful life and never have to know a “hero’s” trail.
I'm scared for the last days to be here. I'm scared for my children. I feel the levity of needing to raise them well right now, while they are young and teachable. I hope that they never have to face a “hero’s” fate. I know that I can overcome anything in this world… but I don’t want too.
Today I dressed up the boys in Virginia Tech shirts and baseball caps. Nate and I put on our VCOM shirts and we went over to Tech to sign the message boards at the memorials at Tech. How do I begin to describe stepping foot on the drill field and seeing so many wearing our proud colors, on their knees crying. There is a wall in front of Burress Hall which is the main administration building (the castle looking building), which is just to the left of Norris Hall, which is surrounded in police tape. There is a half circle of 32 mini-memorials with VT symbols and the names of all the victims there, with flowers and baskets placed on top of Hokie stones. Those stones are what built our school. They are strong and they do not crumble. The symbolism cannot be lost there. It’s a beautiful place. It’s a terribly sad place. While we were there a boy that I had seen on TV came walking up with either his sister, or some kind of a girl friend. He was wearing a blue sling, because he was shot in the arm that day. He walked up to the memorial and looked around. Trying not to stare at him, you could see so much emotion in him, so much on his mind at that moment. A few moments later, he broke down and started to cry. He walked away with his friend, totally devastated. I will never forget the look on his face. I wanted so much to give him a hug. I can only imagine what he must be going through.

While we were there a student came over and told us that they were making ribbons to give to everyone, and he invited us to sign a guest book, and he thanked us for coming and showing our support. Everyone in our community has really pulled together to help and show support to the victims, the families, and the school. Today the VT marching band went over to the hospital and was playing a bunch of up beat songs including our famous “Hokie Poky” One of the girls that was shot that day came to her window and waved to every one and stayed for a while and listened and smiled at everyone. One boy who was shot said of that moment that, “I saw God and the Devil at the same moment.” That’s how I feel. I’ve seen what the devil can do, and what he tries to do, and I’ve seen how God helps us heal and find peace. There is so much more good than bad in this world, sometimes it takes a terrible thing to truly see all the good in the world.

I came home today with so many emotions in my heart. I think that today is the first day that everything is really hitting me. I’ve just been crying all day it seems. Nate went out to mow the lawn and I just sat on the couch so upset. Rachell Massey and I have been playing phone tag all week and I just kept thinking that I needed to call her, so I picked up the phone, and there she was. We’ve been going back and forth for 4 days now, and when I really needed her, she was there. It felt so good to be able to just vent so much off of my chest, and just to cry to someone who knows what’s happening, but just isn’t quite as close as others. I’m so grateful for my many good friends. I miss you all so much. I can’t tell you how much I miss you all.

I keep thinking that there is a message, or a lesson or many lessons to be taken from all of this. I keep thinking that if I can just put all of this in words then it will somehow make sense to me. I keep thinking that if I could pinpoint exactly what emotion that I feel inside then I could begin to heal myself, and help others more. My feelings are so complicated. I feel so completely devastated, on my knees with the wind knocked out of me, in shock, in horror, so scared, and unsure about the terrible events that happened so close to me. I feel so proud. So proud to live in such a strong community, where everyone pulls together to love and support each other through this time. So proud to be a Hokie right now and be able to witness the amazing strength and spirit of this Hokie Nation. I cheer, “LET’S GO HOKIES” while tears of pride and devastation stream down my face. Wishing that we didn’t need this cheer, and proud that I have strength enough to cheer. I’m devastated for my school, yet I’ve never been prouder to be a Hokie. So complicated, yet so simple. I know one thing. When you think of Virginia Tech, you will not think of “The Massacre” you will think of strength, pride and community. We will overcome this… but we will always remember this.
Please take care of yourselves. We love you all,

P.s. I really don’t like what the national networks are saying about us. If you would like to see a little more of the good that has come from this, how we are supporting each other and that sort of thing, please go to that is one of our local stations that I’m happy with the way they are covering all this. You can go to some of their video there and see some great local stories about what is really happening here. Someone wrote a song for Virginia Tech that they put together with a photo montage. I think it’s amazing. If I find a link to it I will forward it on to you. Thank you so much for wearing our colors today. Please continue to keep us all in your prayers.
P.P.S. I’m attaching some pictures of Tech. I’ll probably have to send them in several e-mails.
Today I feel like I've scene so much more of God in all of this than the evil. I have realized first hand that we truly do have a prophet on the earth today that knows our needs. 6 months prior to this Pres. Bednar, a member of the 12 apostles was assigned to come to Blacksburg for our Stake Conference, which was to take place the Sunday after this terrible event. Could the timing have been any more remarkable? As you can tell from my letter home that first week was terrible, but after Pres. Bednar came here, and walked the grounds of VT with our stake president, the general feeling around campus shifted from pain, and determination to overcome, to unity, forgiveness and healing. Instead of feeling scared, in general the community has a feeling of hope, and peace. Our campus has never been the same, but it's not the eerie feeling like some thought it would be, it a feeling of love, friendship, and unity that is rare to find.
Here are some pictures of the 2nd Anniversary Day of Remembrance.
The spontaneous memorial is now a beautifully landscaped memorial with the the original hokie stones still there.
Can you see the huge semi-circle of bushes around the cadets standing there? There is a bush planted behind each hokie stone. 32 is a big number.

There were police on top of Burress hall with binoculars scanning the crowd for security.

Me and my little Lissa Girl.
As dusk came, so did the crowd. Can you see all the maroon and orange?
This was the best picture I could get in the darkness of the candle light visual.

This video was made about the tragity and I think the song is awesome... I can't figure out how to link it so please take a minute and copy this link and watch it.
Thank you so much for reading my long blog entry, and remembering this day with me.

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