The majority of the graduating class of 2012 was not on Virginia Tech’s campus when Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in Norris Hall on April 16, 2007.
But the generation of students who were not here still gathered together in the darkness last night to celebrate the lives of the people most of them did not know.
Monday night’s candlelight vigil marked the 5th anniversary of the April 16, 2007 campus shootings. It featured brief remarks from Tech president Charles Steger, Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, the 2007 SGA president Sumeet Bagai and this year’s SGA president Corbin DiMeglio. Then, the names of the dead were read and the flame of the memorial candle was passed to the crowd, following the tradition of the past five years.
Although five years have passed, Steger said, “it has done nothing to diminish sorrow.”
Steger said the flame of the memorial candle “symbolizes a promise to remember, and a resolve to never forget.”
McDonnell, who was the Virginia Attorney General in 2007, said he was impressed then, and is still impressed now, by how the Tech community rallied.
McDonnell said he believes “we are an incredibly resilient people.”
Bagai, who was the SGA president in 2007, reflected on the five years that have passed since he last stood and addressed a crowd at a candlelight vigil. He spoke about specific examples of strength he remembered, including the spontaneous creation of the first version of the April 16 Memorial, and the candlelight vigil on April 17, 2007.
“I will never forget that moment 5 years ago,” he said.
He said he was impressed then that his classmates chose to stay on campus instead of go home, and that he was impressed now that so many chose to attend the vigil.
Bagai said that although many students standing in front of him were not there in 2007, “like those who came before you and those who will come after you, you embody the university motto (Ut Prosim).”
DiMeglio said although classes were held today, he still hoped people would remember the day.
“We attend class not because we have forgotten, but because we live for 32,” he said.
DiMeglio asked the student body to “keep moving forward.”
“Live for 32,” he repeated.
University spokesman Mark Owczarski was helping visiting members of the media set up before the ceremony, and explained what it meant to him.
“There is two reasons why we do the day of remembrance: The first is to remember the people that we lost. They were integral members of our community doing what they loved the most. This vigil really captures that,” he said. “But it’s also important to come together as a community because that’s what helps the healing process. All these people that are here are here for a reason. Part of it is to remember but part of it is to be together,” Owczarski said.
Students like freshman biochemistry Victoria Morrissette and her friends chose to attend the candlelight vigil because even though they weren’t students in 2007, they feel that Tech is like their family.
“When something happens to your family, you stand by your family,” she said.