For the first year, Tech will not have a candlelight vigil during the Day of Remembrance.
The decision was made by the April 16 Student Planning Committee after speaking to students, and the change is aimed at shifting the emotion of the day from mourning to strengthening community.
"There's not a simple answer to what they came up with," said Mark Owczarski, the assistant vice president of University Relations.
"The Student Planning Committee has been working on the Day of Remembrance 2013 for several months now, and one of the things they did was they went back to students, their constituencies…and said, 'What are you looking for?'" Owczarski said.
The two key themes the committee found that students wanted to remember were the lives and stories of the students and faculty that were lost on April 16, 2007 and the desire to use the day to bring the community together.
With that in mind, the committee decided to focus on the 3.2 to 32 Run for Remembrance and the community picnic.
The run — which will be held Saturday, April 13 this year — is a 3.2 mile long path through and around campus for which anyone can register and do at any pace.
"There may be 7,000 to 10,000 runners," Owczarski said. "It does take the time to reflect and remember by the 32 white balloons at the beginning, starting the run in silence."
The community picnic will be held on the Drillfield on April 16 and will be free to anyone who wishes to come, serving as a place where students can celebrate the lives of those lost and come together to celebrate the strength of the community, according to Owczarski.
One part of remembrance that proved important to students was the name-reading ceremony of the victims that previously occurred during the candlelight vigil. This tradition is being folded into the candle lighting and extinguishing that happens at midnight at the start and end of April 16.
"(The Student Planning Committee) felt that in those three events, they captured what people were asking for,” Owczarski said.
However, not all students are in agreement with this decision, such as Allison Rizzetta, a senior environmental resource management major.
"I don't like that," Rizzetta said. "I would assume they want to eventually phase it out, just like they don't have April 16th as a day off anymore, but no, I think it should remain."
Rizzetta still hopes that there will be a potential candlelight vigil, run by a different student organization.
However, this change was not completely unexpected, and even with the first Day of Remembrance, evolution in the process was anticipated.
“Back in 2008, when Virginia Tech was approaching the first day of remembrance on April 16th, 2008, obviously the question was 'What should that date look like in '08, '09, and the years beyond?'”
That is why the committee was initially formed, Owczarski said.
While this faculty and family-based organization maintained control over the event for 2008 and 2009, control was shifted over to the Student Planning Committee afterward, as it would best understand the wants and needs of current students.
"I grew up an hour away from here, so Tech has always been part of my family," said Emily Wilkinson, a Tech Alumnae and former member of the Student Planning Committee. "Going from having the vigil every single year to it not being there anymore will be different."
Wilkinson is still on the fence about whether the change will be positive or negative, having previously put so much planning into the candlelight vigil.
"I think that it's not necessarily a bad thing," she said. "It's a sign that the community is moving forward. I think that there's many ways to remember each individual in your own way. The jury's still out in my mind — it'll be different this year," Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson wants to be able to celebrate the lives lost rather than mourn them, and sees this as a way to move forward with lives, but still wants to make sure that April 16 is remembered for what it was.
The Day of Remembrance has evolved over time, and this is just another change for the better according to Owczarski.
"The day of remembrance really isn't a day anymore," he said. "It's becoming more than that, which I think is something that adds to the memory and reflection."
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