“After Virginia Tech” by freelance journalist Thomas P. Kapsidelis is a book about the aftermath of the April 16 shooting at Virginia Tech. The book, published by the University of Virginia Press, describes the effects of the tragedy 10 years later and how the survivors and the community are trying to heal. “After Virginia Tech” is scheduled to be released on Tuesday, April 16.
Kapsidelis analyzes the questions of guns rights and public safety, as well as documents the struggles of the advocates of tighter gun legislation. But, according to the author, the most important theme in the book is healing.
Kapsidelis is a former editor for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and worked there for 28 years before leaving in 2016 for the organization Virginia Humanities to pursue creating the book. Around 2010, Kapsidelis saw that there was still a lot of struggle within the community, especially in light of continued similar tragedies around the country. He began to question how the survivors were moving ahead and what they were doing to cope with the events that they had witnessed. He also wanted to record the ways students at Virginia Tech were performing advocacy for things like gun control and violence prevention.
“Having been at (Virginia Tech) the day of the shooting, as you can imagine for a journalist, it’s an experience that you cannot fail to be shaped from,” Kapsidelis said.
The book was originally part of a writing assignment course in 2012 for his master of arts nonfiction writing program at Goucher College in Maryland. Kapsidelis had never written a book before, so he entered the program to help with his idea. To write the book, he attended rallies, interviewed various community members and survivors, and conducted research into subjects such as gun control and trauma. As he continued his research and interviewing, the book evolved from a collection of testimonies to a book covering gun violence, safety and healing, analyzing these things in order to create a strong narrative of the aftereffects of the tragedy. According to Kapsidelis, the testimonies he witnessed reinforced that the period of healing goes on.
“In my mind, the period of healing goes on for long after the event,” Kapsidelis said.
Since Kapsidelis was an editor at the time of the shooting, not a reporter, he had no real contacts to get exclusive interviews. In order to gain these testimonies, he had to rely on those who were already telling their stories or who contacted him with stories they wanted to tell. However, he tried to be as sensitive to the victims as possible because many are still affected by the events of the shooting. The author had to maintain relationships with the people he was interviewing and conducted multiple interviews over the course of several years. According to him, he was able to go more in-depth as the interviews went on, but still tried to be respectful.
“I was asked at a panel about the book whether I thought about this book as news or whether I thought this book was history,” Kapsidelis said. “I said I think it’s a bit of both, because 10 years is not a great deal of time. It’s still the beginning for a lot of people.”
The book will be released on April 16 of this year and can be purchased for $29.95 from the University of Virginia Press website.