Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Seven years later, I remember

I remember the glittering snow that frigid April morning in Blacksburg.  I remember that half of my Ag. Econ class was missing. I remember the deaf girl delivering the news to us that there had been a shooting in the dorm; it always hit me as odd that the most informed person in the class of 200 couldn't hear. I remember seeing an ambulance rush past as I left class. I remember the fear that spread through the seventh floor of Slusher Hall when we heard there might be more shooters hiding in the dormitories. I remember eating ramen with my roommate, Liz. I remember the numbness and the news. We stayed in the dorm all day. I remember watching from across the drillfield as they carried the bodies out to the ambulances. I remember seeing the same things again on the television. I remember when the lockdown ended. I remember that the doors never unlocked again on campus. I remember going to the BCM that night. I remember wanting to be hugged. I remember Sarah running from person to person asking if anyone had heard from Brian. I remember the camera men who allowed her no space to grieve when she finally broke down. I hated them--the media.

I remember waking up the next morning to the list of names being read. The television was so loud beneath my loft bed. I remember locking myself in the bathroom stall to cry.  I remember standing in line to hear President Bush speak. As I left, I remember feeling lost in the swarm of broken Hokies. I remember Jamie finding me in the crowd to ask if I was okay--it was like I was drowning and someone had tossed me a life raft while I was pretending I knew how to swim.

I remember not wanting to leave campus. There was no need for words on campus; everyone already knew. On Wednesday, I remember Trip and Ashley driving our bible study out to the middle of a corn field to just be--it was so peaceful there. Out under the stars, I remember breathing. I remember the candle light vigil on Thursday. No one knew what to do. We gathered there with our black ribbons and flickering candles, but we didn't know why we were there. We just knew we needed to be together. I remember them singing Amazing Grace. We were so lost that night, but we wanted desperately to be found. I remember as the cheer broke out. "Let's go!" Then on the other side of the drillfield, "Hokies!" It continued on for a few minutes. I still can't hear that cheer without choking up just a bit. I remember a rescue vehicle rushing around the field with its lights and siren blasting.  I remember my whole body freezing--sirens, was it happening again? I remember wanting to be hugged.

I remember going back to classes. I remember an English professor as he openly cried in class, asking us if we were okay. I remember Dr. Ellerbrock, my Ag. Econ professor, blessing our entire class with holy water. I remember him telling us, "In my church we bless that which is precious to us. You are precious to me. May I bless you?" All 200 of us stood there in silence as he walked the auditorium. This sacred water--and his blessings--hit our faces and mingled with our tears.

I remember the summer that followed. I remember praying, and I remember God. I remember God stirring a desperation for revival on campus--we needed to be revived. Our hearts needed resurrection. I knew God had a plan to work this terrible evil for good. I came back in the fall with a passion for loving and knowing people. I didn't want to miss knowing anyone.

I remember the one year anniversary. Again we gathered on the drillfield, but this time we did it to celebrate the lives lived and the lives we are living. The drillfield was full of students grateful to be alive and together.

I remember talking with my sister as I began to forgive the media for intruding on such a fragile moment.

I remember going inside of Norris a few years later. I got a migraine almost instantly. I remember the tightness in my throat as I held back tears. I barely breathed. I remember being on edge the whole time.

I remember going to pray on campus with the Dwelling Place interns. We separated into groups and started off.  It was me and several guys. We walked and prayed. Eventually we stopped outside of Norris Hall to pray. The flashbacks started. I could see the bodies being carried out of the building. I wanted to be hugged. I kept praying. Then I felt unsafe, like at any moment someone was going to turn the corner to attack us. We moved on to the memorial. As we stopped to pray again a rescue vehicle rushed around the field with its lights and siren blasting. I lost it. I remember my intern brothers surrounding me like a tight, protective shield. As I wept (rather loudly), they prayed. It was like Jesus himself had come down to the drillfield; I finally felt safe.  We gathered with the rest of the group. The prayer continued. One of the intern leaders prayed for the flashbacks to stop happening. I haven't had I flashback since. It's nice to not have to remember now.

Seven years later, I still honor the lives of those who we lost. I pray for their families and friends. I'm thankful for the professors and administrators who loved us so much. I'm thankful for my "Hokie Hug"--a blanket sent by a church... somewhere. They made maroon and orange fleece knot-blankets and asked their children to hug them for us. I'm thankful for prayers and hugs. I'm thankful for the many people at Virginia Tech who changed my life. I remember the Hokies spread all around the world who still need healing. Seven years later, I remember that God is good and that He who began healing Virginia Tech will be faithful to complete that healing until the end.

Hug a Hokie today.

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