Today is April 16, 2012, five years to the day when the massacre at the place I now call my home occurred. 32 lives lost, the worst tragedy of its kind. And as I sit here writing this entry, there is no place in the world that I would rather travel to right now than Blacksburg, Virginia. For the first time this semester, it pains me to be in London. I would give anything to be home.
It was certainly a complicated chain of events that led me home to Tech, and I thank God that it did. Had it not been for my hatred of all things sorority and fraternity as a senior in high school, I would most likely now find myself a Demon Deacon (anyone who knows me now may see the irony in that). Or the near loss of a high school friend, which showed me that being over 2000 miles away in California or Washington, far from my family and friends, wasn’t right for me at that point in my life. Or that gut feeling I was given the moment I stepped onto Villanova’s campus, telling me that I would not be attending. Or my mother’s suggestion to stop by Virginia Tech as we drove by Blacksburg on our way to visit other schools, even though I knew it would be much too big for my liking. Or my acceptance into the Honors College at Tech, which solidified my acceptance, and lasted all of a semester. All of these events led me to my home, to the greatest place I have ever lived, to the greatest people I have ever known.
Whenever I tell someone outside the Hokie Nation that I go to Virginia Tech, they always respond with a saddened expression and something to the tune of “oh my goodness it’s so sad what happened there” or “isn’t that the place where all those people got shot?” or even “wow, why would you have chosen to go there?”. And yes, these replies certainly irritate me and it often takes great effort for me to control my tongue, but even more they sadden me for those who say them. Certainly because of the ignorance words like those represent, but more so because the people who say them will never know what I know; they will never feel what I feel; they will never experience what I have been so blessed to experience for these past three years; they are not Hokies.
Certainly for an outsider, for those who only see us on CNN in light of heartache, a tragedy like April 16th may be exactly what we are defined by. And what a pity for those people. They will never know the chills I get when I drive past Lane Stadium. They will never know the pure exhilaration I feel whenever “Enter Sandman” is played by a cover band here in London. They will never know the peace I feel when I sit atop War Memorial Chapel and overlook the Drillfield. They will never know the laughter I share with Emma, Colleen, Mina, Ellee and Alia at clubhouse lunches in ABP. They will never have the unbreakable friendship that Melinda, Emily and I have. They will never know what Virginia Tech is, what and who it is made of. Virginia Tech is more than Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, more than Beamer Ball, the Corp of Cadets, Greek Life, and Ut Prosim, more than everything even its students sometimes attempt to define it by. Virginia Tech cannot be described.
Today is not a day to defend my Hokies, to attempt to convince those ignorant many that in fact my university is probably the safest of any, that April 16th could have happened anywhere. Because today I do not care about those people, those opinions. Today I care about my home, the place I love, the place that has honored me when I have shined most brightly and has held me when I have reached darker places than I thought I could. April 16th happened to Virginia Tech because only the Hokies could survive. That indescribable something gave my school its ability to rise from the ashes, from the deepest of trenches, and become something even greater. We will never forget the 32 for as long as there is a sun in the sky. And we will live everyday knowing what those 32 knew before their lives were so tragically taken. Virginia Tech is more than anything words can describe, and I thank God each and every day that I am one of the lucky few to know exactly what that means.