UPDATE 2:44 p.m.: Gov. Ralph Northam posted an official certificate on Facebook Friday saying he recognizes “April 16, 2021, as VIRGINIA TECH REMEMBRANCE DAY in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA,” and calling this observance to all Virginians’ attention.
BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Friday marks 14 years since a student opened fire on the Virginia Tech campus, killing 32 people and wounding 17 others before turning the gun on himself on April 16, 2007.
“It’s important to remember those lives that were taken,” said university spokesperson Mark Owczarski, “the goals, hopes, and aspirations they held until they were taken from them.”
Every year since that tragic day, the Virginia Tech community pays tribute to the victims with a Day of Remembrance on April 16.
The university offers several ways to remember those who lost their lives, but for the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way those victims will be honored.
For example, there will be no public events on campus in order to prevent any potential spread of the coronavirus.
Typically, there are candlelight vigils at midnight and 11:59 p.m. on the anniversary of the shooting. However, people are allowed to visit the April 16 Memorial — where a candle will burn for 24 hours — in a socially-distanced manner.
In addition, the 3.2 mile Run in Remembrance will take place in a virtual manner from Friday, April 16 through Sunday, April 18 in order to allow members of the Hokie community to honor those 32 victims while still remaining socially distant.
Owczarski says the way the community has come together over the last 14 years has allowed people to push forward.
“Fourteen years ago, we came together at the very darkest moment that one could ever imagine to hear the words of Nikki Giovanni that ‘we will prevail,'” he said. “That is a hard thing to hear at that moment because it just seemed impossible, but she planted a seed. I think that many have begun to realize over time and each of us does that in his or her own way.”
A university-wide moment of silence is scheduled for 9:43 a.m. on Friday. That will also be the time President Timothy Sands and his wife Laura Sands plan to lay a wreath at the memorial.
Gov. Ralph Northam has also ordered that the Virginia flag be lowered to half-staff at sunrise on Friday 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.
For the first time, the school has launched a digital exhibit for a way people can honor the 32 victims.
The main item highlighted in the exhibit is a metal piece created by artist Eric Schuttler, with the phrase “We are better than we think, and not quite what we want to be” inscribed on it.
Other items up for display are a heart-shaped pillow, large square stones with Chinese characteristics inscribed with the words “Love” and “Tranquility,” and a condolence book with letters written by children.
Owczarski says the exhibit is another way to keep the memories of the 32 victims alive.
“Together we find ways to recover, to be resilient, and to move forward,” he said.
The mass shooting at Virginia Tech is the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
Numerous lawmakers, law enforcement agencies, and emergency responders have already shared their support for the Virginia Tech community on this Day of Remembrance:
- U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine: “Fourteen years ago, 32 people were killed in what was then the worst mass shooting in American history. As Governor at the time, it was easily the worst day of my life. Today, we remember the lives lost too soon, honor their memories, and hold in our hearts all who loved them.”
- U.S. Sen. Mark Warner: “In the wake of another mass shooting, today marks the 14th anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting, the most painful day in Virginia’s recent history. We owe it to the 32 Hokies killed in the tragedy and their families to take a commonsense approach to prevent future tragedies.”
- U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith: “Today marks fourteen years since the shooting at Virginia Tech. This senseless tragedy claimed 32 lives and forever changed many others. We honor those lost, mourn with their loved ones, and embrace those who survived the events of that terrible day.”
- Attorney General Mark Herring: “Today is a day Virginians will #neVerforgeT. Today marks 14 years since the devastating and tragic Virginia Tech shooting that took 32 lives and injured 17 more. The victims, the survivors and their families will forever be in our hearts. We must continue our work to reduce gun violence in our communities and make sure a tragedy like this never happens again.”
- Del. Chris Hurst: “They were friends, sons, daughters, mentors, professors and all are always Hokies. 14 years ago terror, heartbreak and gun violence came to Blacksburg and Virginia Tech. Today I will honor the lives of our 32 lost by remembering them and their stories.”
- Riner Volunteer Rescue Squad: “Today we hold the entire Hokie community in our hearts and remember those that were lost, but never forgotten. We extend a comforting hug and prayers to the families, but also to our friends at Virginia Tech Rescue Squad, Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad, and the area Law Enforcement Agencies and hospitals that held the Hokie Community in their hands, and protect those moving forward!”