Tuesday, April 17, 2007

More thoughts on Va. Tech

Got this note from one of my colleagues in Austin who is an alumna of Virginia Tech ... wanted to share her thoughts ....

Dear colleagues and more importantly friends,

I think unless you’ve been buried in client work, you’ve all been exposed to the shootings that took place at my beloved alma mater, Virginia Tech.

Even though my time there has been distanced by several years, the shock of this event is in a way as personal as if I had been on campus yesterday. Every college community has its own sense of pride and every student who attends shares in some way, the same love and memories from their institution. I have been blessed to share in the Longhorn-Texas pride here in Austin, but as many of you have seen during college football season, my heart belongs to the Hokies.

Founded over 130 years ago, Virginia Tech began as a military and agricultural university set away in the western Virginia New River Valley. The school later became known for its engineering and science curriculum and was more formerly named Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University – what we all now refer to as Virginia Tech and just “Tech” when you’re in Virginia. The original mascot was a turkey and to this day the “Home of the Fighting Gobblers” is still portrayed on our stadium, even though we now have all taken on the name “Hokie.”

Virginia Tech is home to over 26,000 students from across the globe; its campus is what you dream of a college campus to be. Set away from the everyday busy lives of others, nestled in the green hills in the small town of Blacksburg. The buildings encircle a large field called the Drillfield where every summer and spring you dodge Frisbee players and every winter you dodge a snowball or two. Each building is made out of “Hokie” stone, a beautiful granite that is mined up the road from the school. At the end of campus exists a Duck Pond and overall the campus, with its rolling hills, and farm land is straight out of a movie. The town does not possess a “6th Street” like here in Austin, we have but one street, Main Street, and only a handful of bars to visit, but we find a way to party just as hard with fewer options.

Virginia Tech has a motto that each student is held accountable for from day one; the Latin words “UT Proism” – “That I may Serve.” These words are ever present in all that we do as Hokies, from our first orientation to our last breath as alumni. It is etched in our brains and on our class rings. Our college, like Texas A&M, houses one of the last military programs of its kind outside of actual military institutions such as West Point, further proof that we as Hokies in all forms serve the community and the world around us living by those words: UT Proism.

It is easy to get a small glimpse of a college’s pride during football or basketball season, but the maroon and orange I display during these seasons is only a fraction of my deep love for this university and this is why I have shared the school’s history with you. Virginia Tech was my home for four years, the longest I as a military brat had lived anywhere. I stayed at West Ambler Johnson, the scene of the first shooting as high school senior in orientation, and lived two buildings over for my first two years and I had several classes in Norris Hall; the scene of the second shootings.

I have many, many memories from my time there, none of which include one scary moment or true moment of darkness; it truly is a safe and fun place to be. It is useless to try to make sense of this tragedy because you can never make sense out of complete nonsense. This event could have happened anywhere, yet it happened there, in one of the most unlikely places imaginable, at least to me.

In today’s convocation ceremony at the school, Hokies were graced by the presence of many dignitaries, to include President Bush, but it was professor and famed poet Nikki Giovanni that brought tears to my eyes as she repeated “We are Hokies.” It is a statement that is hard to describe the meaning to unless you’ve been there and shared the Hokie pride, but to us, those are the strongest words that could have been uttered because to us they are words of hope. To hear the auditorium chant: “Lets Go Hokies” after her speech shows me that while we as Hokies and we as a nation are still in mourning, we will recover and we will recover stronger.

I am not a parent therefore I cannot imagine the devastation felt by every parent in every community who sends his/her child off to school everyday. I am not a sister, nor do I have a brother and therefore I do not know what that loss could ever feel like, but I do know loss and I do sympathize with all involved there. My college mentor spent 2.5 hours yesterday locked in the building next door to Norris Hall with her students, watching them as they tried to make sense of what was occurring around them, in what, until yesterday was a peaceful community, no doubt her three young children were what she was focused on. Thirty-three students and faculty lost their lives in a tragic event and as we know those lives spiral outwardly touching, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, cousins and friends.

The Austin Chapter for the Virginia Tech Alumni Association has set-up a victim’s fund site. All donations received at this site will be given to Virginia Tech in memory of these victim’s and in hopes that it will help their families. The site can be visited here if you are interested in donating.

Many of you, many of our clients and many of our GCI colleagues from around the world have reached out to me in support of this event. Thank you for listening to my story and the story of my school, even now re-reading what I’ve wrote, I realize that this explanation is still only a small glimpse into how wonderful Virginia Tech truly is. I am blessed to have left Hokie Pride for GCI Pride and please know that all of your well-wishes to me have been passed along in my communication to those who are currently at Virginia Tech.

Forever I feel that this event will make me stronger and more grateful, and again I thank you for your support. All my best,



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