I attended Virginia Tech for seven semesters starting in the fall of 1993 and left for personal reasons in 1997. During my time living in Blacksburg I came to really love the community and I absolutely mourned when I had to leave to find work. Blacksburg is a small town with a very strong "hippy", politically aware community. More than that, as a student who ventured into town I felt immeasureably safe. I was cautious at night, as common sense would dictate, but I was very free to relax and be myself. There was always something very isolating about the campus. I loved the arcitecture, but I had more than one acquaintence point out that it felt like a prison. Knowing I was only one of tems of thousands of student was very isolating in many ways. Had I been stronger in spirit I think I would not have suffered that quite so much. Certainly I had professors who were warm, approachable and despite my being one of 500 or 150 students in a class they knew who I was.
It is this memory that makes the stories comming from the tradgedy in Blacksburg that much harder to hear. Professors, even at this big school, love the students and the high ideals of their institutions. Though they feel free to criticize the compensation packages, they relish turning there 20 year old students "On".
What a horrid sacrifice was made by the professor who blocked the door with his body so that his stuidents might escape. How gut renching to see the halls of learning turn into a blood bath. I can't begin to comprehend the emotional chaos this is playing on Virginia Techs professors.
Norris Hall, as I remember was a really cool building, where the walls are covered with the accomplishment and project synopsises of it's brightest. The hand rail on the stairwells where in some places just painted piping. I never studied there, never learned there, but I walked its halls with friends. I can't imagine how they will move forward when the walls are now covered with lifeless blood.
West Ambler Johnston was my second dormatory during my freshman year at Tech. My room was by the elevators, noisy and isolated. I lived on the third floor, if I remember correctly. Many of my friends, in the VT Band lived on the second floor. I imagine that hall is a naturally good place to house the band because of it's proximity to the playing feilds. The dorms become large families too, with doors left open and socializing a common way to avoid homework. I know that these events in one part of the dorm, the fourth floor, will rock the lives of the 890 some residents who have lived there. Roomates may not always get along but dorm identity is a strong part of who you are and who you know on a campus as large as Virginia Techs.
I want to know so much more about what has happened and yet I am deeply impacted by the news. To see the campus that I ultimately loved propped up on the screen so CNN can have various pundits and students in shock ramble on about the events is heart breaking. The revelation that this angry student had sent warning signs out and that at least one teacher was disturbed by his writing, and attempted to alert the administration is alarming. That nothing was done about it is not suprising to me. Virginia Tech, it always seemed was a bit of an arrogant machine. Having had my own encounters with a neglectful mental health facility (granted 10 years ago) I can see how this students was not directed to help fast enough, or perhaps not directed at all. Without getting into my personal details let me tell you that when I asked for assitance and told the staff I was having a "crisis" they scheduled me an appointment for three full weeks later and sent me out the door with my little reminder. In my distress I forgot the appointment, and went back, still in crisis to ask for another and again was given an appoinment for 3 weeks later. Repeat this cycle yet one more time and I was ready to withdraw from school. It was when I told this to staff that I was pulled into a quick meeting where I was criticised for not seeking help sooner. I can only imagine what this student encountered if he sought help at all, or if anyone tried to seek it for him.
Here is a link to a list of the victims and their stories.