Virginia Tech Day of Remembrance honors the 32 lives lost

This year marks 12th anniversary of the tragedy

By Jessica Jewell - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

BLACKSBURG, Va. - Twelve years ago today, tragedy struck Blacksburg.

At midnight, Hokies gathered for a candle lighting in front of Burruss Hall followed by the names read aloud of the 32 people who died.

Flags at half staff, a ceremonial wreath and a tragedy that still stings 12 years later. 

A campus that's typically bustling, came to a standstill Tuesday morning at 9:43 a.m. -- the moment the second attack began in 2007 in Norris Hall. 

A memory, defined by pain, still today. 

"I think it's impossible to think of Virginia tech without thinking of these community members who are no longer with us," said Vinodh Venkatesh, professor of modern and classical languages. 

Family members of victims and former students who were on campus that day made the trip back to Blacksburg for the anniversary. 

"It is first and foremost a time to remember those very vibrant, very energized, very excited teachers and learners who came to Virginia Tech to make the world a better place," said Mark Owczarski, a university spokesperson. 

The day is no less important for those who watched the tragedy from afar. 

Each marker decorated with a special wreath, designed by students. 
"The families told us which flowers they wanted and what colors so being able to work with the families to make such special memorial up with the students, it meant a lot to me," said Alexandra Gauthier, fifth-year student and teaching assistant for a floral design class. "It kind of made it more than a story. It's real.

And for those who were there that fateful day, a reminder of the good that can come from tragedy. 

"I think one of the things about this community is how we haven't changed and how we've embraced those 32 lives and we've made a firm commitment that we will not forget them and that we will hold this day of remembrance for as long as there is Virginia Tech." 

Some Hokies who graduated years ago, as well as family members of those who died and those who were students 12 years ago, returned to campus Tuesday.

Members of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets stood guard at the memorial for 32 minutes. One minute for each of the lives lost.

Sen. Tim Kaine, who was Virginia's governor at the time of the tragedy, released this statement Tuesday:

April 16, 2007 was the worst day of my life. Twelve years ago today, we lost 32 precious lives in the horrific shooting at Virginia Tech, leaving painful ripple effects across our Commonwealth to this day. In the dark days that followed, Anne and I joined with Hokies to mourn those we lost. We gave thanks to brave first responders who had seen the unforgettable horror of classrooms filled with bullet-riddled bodies, many with ringing cell phones in their pockets as frantic family members tried to reach them. We shed tears with loved ones of the victims and resolved to never, ever let something like this happen again.

In the wake of this tragedy, we made some progress in Virginia to fix a flaw in the background record check system that allowed the shooter to purchase a weapon, but our efforts to further strengthen the background check system were blocked by some in the legislature. We have unfinished business to make our communities safer. After Virginia Tech, I had hoped and prayed there would never be a worse gun violence tragedy, yet we’ve seen horrific mass shootings in Las Vegas, Orlando, Newtown, Parkland, and countless other cities and towns. Congress has to stop being bystanders to the devastation that we’ve seen.

Today, let us stand together to honor those we lost at Virginia Tech with commonsense action to reduce gun violence. This means working to implement universal background checks and keep weapons of war off our streets and out of our schools. We must take steps to help prevent another community from going through the unimaginable pain caused by the shooting at Virginia Tech.

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