Virginia Tech shooting survivor tells his story
It was nearly a decade ago 32 people were killed and 17 wounded.
BLACKSBURG – Thousands of people will join the Virginia Tech community this weekend as the university remembers the April 16 tragedy.
It was nearly a decade ago that 32 people were killed and 17 wounded.
The events beginning Friday will honor the 32, as well as the survivors, families and first responders.
Survivor Kevin Sterne has remained part of the community since that day.
Looking at the semicircle of Hokie stones, one for each life lost that April 16, Sterne knows who he'll walk for in the Run for Remembrance on Saturday.
"They have the thing that says who do you run for. For me, that's always been Michael Pohle," said Sterne.
The two sat next to each other in German class 10 years ago.
"It's the random five minutes or what not that you have where you're both sitting there before class starts and you're like, 'Hey, did you get this homework done?' And like, 'yeah that was tough,'" recalled Sterne.
Sterne was shot twice nearly 10 years ago.
"Afterwards there were a couple of people who were getting up and walking around or kind of checking people out and I wasn't able to do that and kinda realizing where I'd been shot and then I couldn't walk or anything like that," continued Sterne.
A photo of four police officers carrying him out of Norris Hall became an iconic image of the tragedy and appeared around the world.
"It certainly replays, that kind of 5-to-10 second stretch of being carried out of the building and down the grass there to the ambulance," said Sterne.
Years later, the reminder remained.
"Any time there was another mass shooting or any kind of reference to it, it was tied to my name and it would say oh, 'this is Kevin Sterne from Virginia Tech April 16,'" said Sterne.
Kevin doesn't talk about that day much, although his recovery and return to Virginia Tech, first to receive his diploma, again as a graduate student and now to work as an engineer speaks volumes.
"You know it was a very familiar place and I couldn't imagine going somewhere else and starting out new without any friends or that kind of thing," explained Sterne.
Being here, he said, helped him cope and helped him deal. Perhaps it even helped him prepare for the 10th anniversary.
"It's more of a reflection of past anniversaries. What was the first one like and what was the second one like, maybe the fifth one, what was last year like," said Sterne.
This year, things are a little different. Now a father, Sterne said he has new perspective.
"It certainly puts it in the perspective of what if that was my son," explained Sterne. "That's certainly a different take on it that I haven't had yet."
Sunday will be about remembering.
"It's remembering all the people that were involved that day, all the people who lost their lives or the people who helped save me. The first responders and the doctors," continued Sterne.
The people, strangers even, in this community and across the country who offered support.
"Even too, the people who wrote letters, elementary school kids up to 87-year-old grandmas that wrote me a poem and then mailed it. Just being thankful for those people," said Sterne.
Including people like Michael Pohle's family, who he only got to know out of tragedy.
"Especially now, meeting his family and knowing who he was and that he's no longer here," said Sterne.
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