Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Remembering Last Year - a Parent's Thoughts

I remember getting a call on my cell from my daughter( in South Carolina) -"Mom, turn on the TV there has been a shooting at Tech". Due to a severe rain storm our house telephone line was out of service, school was canceled and I was home.

We had just returned from visiting my son in Switzerland. He was in Riva San Vitale participating in the Virginia Tech study abroad program. We listened to the town's Holy Saturday Concert , attended Easter Mass in this small town of 2000 residents, and had Easter dinner in the Villa Maderni with all the students and Elizabeth and Annette.

I turned on CNN.Then the call came from Matt.He asked "What do you know , what is going on?" They had no TV in the Villa so the only contact they had was the internet, two office phones that could call the US and the few cell phones- like Matt's -that could phone home. We relayed what we knew at the time. Two student's were shot in West Ambler Johnson and there was a gunman on campus. Matt lived on the 7th floor of WAJ the previous semester. When word came that Ryan Clark, band member and as Matt described him "Mr. Tech" was killed my heart ached. But what about Norris Hall and the gunman?

I was ready to get in the car and drive the 8 hours to Blacksburg to help. If Matt had been on campus that is exactly what I would have done. But we just kept watch at home, prayed for the students, their parents and the university administration and relayed info to Matt. I e-mailed a few of his friends and checked the away messages of others. I thanked God that they were all ok. Matt called to tell us, that a fellow crew member had been shot but was out of surgery- and we choked up again.

I could not find any words to comfort my son. I was in dire need of being able to give him a big hug but that was impossible he was too far away. I could not wait for him to come home. I remember the call "Mom they found us here in Riva. The CNN truck is parked across the street. They want to know how we feel." A parent never wants a child to have to experience this loss, this type of pain. We received an e-mail from the Riva program letting parents know how they were dealing with the situation. I was comforted. A few days later Matt posted his photo of the memorial the students in Riva created to honor their friends in Blacksburg. ( The photo above is the memorial in Riva taken by Matt.)

The more we learned about the situation the sadder I became. I could not imagine how the parents felt. Yet I was also proud - proud of the Hokie students and the Hokie nation , proud of communities around the nation who showed support. I was happy that Matt was a Hokie.

Now it is a year later. This morning at St Paul the Apostle Church( Highland Park , NJ) we said as special prayer for the VT students. I write this as I listen to the webcast of the University Commemoration. Stopping to listen to the comments about the 32. They were incredible individuals.

Nikki Giovanni said:
We will continue to invent the future
Through all our blood and tears
Through all this sadness
We are the HOKIES
We will prevail!
We will prevail!
We will prevail!


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