I can almost guarantee you that every Virginia Tech student, current or alumni, has been asked the question “Isn’t that the school where the shooting happened?” at least once in their lives when they tell someone where they are currently attending or where they previously attended college.
I know I’ve been asked that question more times than I remember. I’m never sure what kind of response people are expecting to hear. I know that they can’t understand from my point of view because they’ll never know what Virginia Tech truly encompasses. It’s hard for people on the outside to understand the feeling of relief after stepping onto campus in the fall after being away for months. As an insider, I have to remind myself that what I experienced as a Virginia Tech Hokie is something too beautiful, rare, and unique to make sense to someone who hasn’t experienced it.
So when I am asked that question in the future, instead I will stop them short at “Isn’t that the place where–” and say this:
“Yes. It is the place I called home for 4 amazing years. It’s the place I met incredible, smart and beautiful people inside and out, some of whom I still consider my closest friends. Those people I called family while I was there. Yes, it is the place where I truly felt myself. Where I could be silly, weird, adventurous and feel completely alive with a group of people who always brought the fun to the party. Where I got to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and carefree Fridays with people who constantly put a smile on my face and rhythm in my steps. Yes, it is the place I learned more about myself than I thought possible. Where I grew, matured and experienced love, loss, failure and success. Yes, it is the place with the most loyal college fan base you will ever know. The place with Enter Sandman blasting throughout the town on Saturday, the stadium pulsing as feet jump up and down in the stands as our football team charges the field. Yes, it is the place where we truly know the meaning of tailgating, whether it’s 8 PM or 8 AM. Yes, it is the place with the best mascot across the board. Yes, it is the place that allows me to brag about being a part of the #1 Relay For Life in the country, raising money and awareness for cancer research, survivors and honoring those we’ve lost. Yes, it is the place where the campus and the people on it are known as an extremely tight knit community, always looking out for one another, always supporting one another. It’s the place where four generations of my family came and left as Hokies—maroon and orange flowing throughout our family tree. Yes, it is the place that I will continue to call my second home. The place that I will always hold dear to my heart. It’s the place that always gives me an overwhelming feeling of love whenever I come back visit. It’s the place that makes me proud of who I am, where I come from and where I’m going.”
That’s what I’m going to say, because that is what I want people to think of when they hear the words: Virginia Tech.
I want people to know that I chose Virginia Tech for a reason. I chose it as my home for four years because I knew I would find family there. I knew that I would learn, succeed, grow, laugh and love there.I knew that while I welcomed the school with open arms, it would also return the gesture.
From the outside you can’t see it, but the students and professors on Virginia Tech’s campus and its alumni across the world support one another every single day, in so many different capacities. But on this day each year, April 16th, we all gravitate a little closer to one another. We hug a little longer, pray a little harder and feel a lot deeper together. I know that we will always live for the 32 and that we will always remember the loss and hurt that were felt and the tears that were shed that day and every year since. But I hope that people around the world who only see us from the outside looking in and ask us only about the negative will now be able to see what we see from an inside perspective, and be more inclined to ask us about the good.