I’m nothing in this story. I wasn’t there yesterday. It’s been nine years since I last graduated from Virginia Tech. From my occasional visits to campus since, it’s clear how the school has changed since I left. Virginia Tech was a different place on even April 15th than it was when I was a student.
Still, Virginia Tech is a family. There is a passion that develops from being a Hokie. It’s the sense of community that one hopes will develop when going off to college, only it’s better because it becomes real in so many unexpected ways. Whether it’s lifelong friendships or a knowing glance at encountering a stranger in a foreign country wearing a VT, a connection builds that never goes away. The feeling grows from happiness that you attended a great school to impatience for the day when your children can attend Virginia Tech.
Now I’m worried. I’m not worried that this sense of community will disappear. The bonds are too strong. But it will change. I worry that today’s students will only be able to remember the Virginia Tech of April 16, 2007. There will be a sadness, I imagine, although I know that what I think is only a guess. There is now a large group of Hokies that will be different in some way. Each student will internalize these events in his or her own way, but I don’t doubt that something will be there. Whether it’s a sadness at friends lost or anger at tragedy not averted, time will be the only salve. Even that will not be completely effective, of course. Time heals wounds, but only by covering them with scars.
So I worry. I wish I could help them. Instead, they will teach, an unfair burden on the innocent.
How will this change us? I wish I knew. I wish we didn’t have to find out. We do, and we will. Somehow. Being a Hokie means being part of a family larger than any you ever imagined possible. Through this indescribable cruelty, Hokies will continue.