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Virginia Tech survivor to mark 10th anniversary with support from family, friends

Heidi Miller, shot three times, to Run in Remembrance

BLACKSBURG – The Virginia Tech campus bustled with activity on a recent Saturday.

Students and soon-to-be students were on campus with their parents for orientation.

"I know it's a big thing. I mean it's funny almost that we came today when there's all these because I came to this in April 2006 I guess," recalled graduate Heidi Miller.

A year after her own orientation, the then freshman crossed the Drillfield, headed to class.

"I would walk to my French class three times a week," she said.

The familiar sounds of construction could be heard the morning of April 16, 2007.  

"But then that day somebody was like, 'Man, that's getting a lot closer. Man, that's really close,'" she remembered.

Heidi said herher teacher, Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, peeked out the classroom door.

"When she looked back, and I don't know why we all knew, but something in her face definitely conveyed like something is very wrong."

Heidi doesn't recall what -- if anything-- Couture-Nowak said.

"From there, it was just a blur of people hiding under desks or whatever they could do."

Her teacher was killed. Heidi was shot three times in the leg.
      
After six weeks on crutches and physical therapy for even longer, Heidi returned to Virginia Tech.

"The emotional stuff sort of started to catch up," she said. "That took more time than the physical therapy to work through."

She graduated in 2010, starting a new chapter in her life.

"That was a transition. OK, how do I live my life as Heidi out in the world, not Heidi from Virginia Tech or Heidi as the shooting survivor from Tech," she recalled.

Now a graduate student in Knoxville, Heidi returns to campus fairly regularly, she said, each time feeling different.

"Sometimes there's lots of emotions. Sometimes it's not. It's just fun to go to football games or catch up with people I only see when I'm down here."

Married nearly two years, she'll return for the 10th anniversary of the tragedy with her husband, parents and sister. It's the first time they'll experience an anniversary together.  

"I think the 10-year anniversary definitely feels a little heavier. There's a lot more of the emotions," she admitted.

She's grateful she'll have them with her.

"A lot of the people that were there when I was 19 are still a big part of my life. I think that's a real treasure that I have and I keep them close to me."

Heidi, fully recovered from her injuries, will take part in the Run in Remembrance Saturday.