91ºF

Virginia Tech President reflects on tragedy's approaching anniversary

BLACKSBURG (WSLS 10) - Sunday will mark 10 years since the Virginia Tech tragedy where 32 people lost their lives. They were students and faculty members.

This week, WSLS 10 will remember them with a number of stories on the events to commemorate the anniversary, remember and reflect on the people impacted by the tragedy.

Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands talked with WSLS 10 about the day and how the Virginia Tech community will never forget.

Sands was working at Purdue University on April 16, 2007, when the father of four, the oldest, a college student at the time, learned of the tragedy unfolding.

"The only thing I remember from the actual event, from the day, was just thinking 'is my daughter safe?'" recalled Sands.

He also recalls how the Virginia Tech and Blacksburg community came together.

"After that, I certainly marveled at the response of the community and I think the rest of the world did as well," he continued.

When he came to Virginia Tech seven years later, Sands said he learned from the community and talked with survivors, families and first responders.

He was inspired by the stories of the 32.

"Over time you hear the stories, is the stories of the people we lost that day. And what they had meant to their communities, the bravery and just the people that they were. Those stories live on," said Sands.

Most of the students on campus today were in elementary school at the time.

"It just isn't part of their memory, for many of them. But they know the stories and they also know want to be here," explained Sands.

They take part in events marking the anniversary, including the 3.2-mile Run in Remembrance. An event that thousands participate in every year.

"Every year I get a chance to talk to the students about, 'what brings you to this?' And it's not because it's a fun run or something. It's not. It's a run of remembrance and they want to be part of that community that knows how to remember and how to respect the past and how to build on it," continued Sands.

It's why Sands said it's so important to remember and support the people who were here and to never forget.

"This is something that is part of not just our history, but it's part of who we are. It's part of what makes Virginia Tech strong as a community. It's part of our leadership and higher education," he said.

As the Tech community continues to heal, Sands said it's important to listen, not just as an anniversary nears, but every day.

"We've got people at Virginia Tech who are in constant communication, every day of the year, with our families and that is going to continue. They'll tell us when they want something different," said Sands.

And understand as the healing continues, not everyone responds in the same way.

"Everybody is on a different path, a different trajectory, and you have to recognize that it's not everybody is in the same place every year," continued Sands.

Ten years after an unimaginable tragedy, Virginia Tech's president said what still stands out is the strength of this community and the support everyone has for each other.

"I've never been in a community that when something happens that the outpouring of support is just hard to imagine," said Sands. "It's always bigger than I expect."

It's that same support which is offered now.

"This week is about those we lost in remembering them. And we'll never forget," said Sands.

This year's Run in Remembrance will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. A record 10,275 people have registered so far.