BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) – Thursday marks the 13th anniversary of one of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States.
On April 16, 2007, 32 innocent lives were taken after a gunman opened fire on campus at Virginia Tech.
Since that day, the university has made a vow to always remember those lost. Every year, members of the Hokie community come together for the school’s “Day of Remembrance” events.
Due to their commitment to limiting the spread of COVID-19, university officials announced they will alter their events to help promote social distancing and prevent large gatherings.
“It’s ironic this year because the community is big part of our resilience. There are so many iconic images of people coming together on campus to remember those lost,” says Mark Owczarski, Assistant Vice President for University Relations at Virginia Tech.
Owczarski adds that more than 15,000 people are known to gather in fellowship for past events.
Although the Ceremonial Candle at the April 16 Memorial will burn for 24 hours, there was not a public ceremony for when it was illuminated at midnight.
Later this morning, flowers and wreaths will be placed at the memorial and the Carillion Bells at Burruss Hall will be rung 32 times at 9:43 a.m.
For the first-time ever, the 3.2 Mile Run in Remembrance will be offered as a virtual event this year. From April 16-18, Virginia Tech will host a virtual run during a three-day period to encourage proper distancing.
“We’re going to try and capture that sense of community scattered all over the country. It will be exciting to see how many Hokies will actually print out that bid, participate, and send in that information,” says Owczarski.
The university’s library has also launched the digital exhibit, “Unknown Origins: Anonymous gifts in the April 16, 2007 Condolence Archives.” The exhibit features anonymous donations and gifts of unknown origin, paying homage to those who want to be part of the mourning and recovery process but do not necessarily want to be known. Some of the items include a poster of elementary school students along with their first names and their messages and photos of people wearing Virginia Tech gear from different schools and businesses.
Owczarski says that the university has been in frequent contact with family members of those lost and survivors of the tragic event.
“They’re very supportive of the move to move these events virtually,” says Owczarski. “COVID-19 is our top priority right now. We have got to flatten the curve. We’ve got to do things that we need to do to prevent the spread of this disease.”
Members of the Virginia Tech community are still encouraged to pause and honor the 32 people who lost their lives. The April 16 Memorial is open to the public, but social distancing signs have been placed to adhere to public health guidelines.
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) posted his support for the Virginia Tech community on Facebook Thursday morning.
“Thirteen years ago today, we lost 32 precious souls, and 23 others were hurt in the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech,” says Kaine. “It was the worst day of my life and the lives of so many in the Hokie community.”
Gov. Ralph Northam also ordered that the Virginia flag be lowered to half-staff at sunrise on Thursday on all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds in the Commonwealth to honor and respect the memory of the victims of the shooting, their families, and the Virginia Tech community. The flag will continue to fly at half-staff until sunset on Thursday.
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