I grew up in the small town of Blacksburg, Virginia, nestled in the Appalachian Mountains of Southwestern Virginia, where life is slow and living it is easy. You might say that I was sheltered by the close-knit and easy-going hometown feeling that dominated our little community, but that all changed one unusually windy Monday in April. 14 days after my 18th birthday I was rudely awakened to the harshness that exists in reality when a young man walked into the building where my father worked as a professor on the campus of Virginia Tech, and began to chain the doors shut from the inside. He then systematically went through each classroom on the first floor, and began shooting every person in side.
Luckily that day my father managed to barricade himself within his office and escape physically unharmed. However, 32 other students, coworkers, and friends or our family were killed that terrible day. I cannot transmit entirely the emotional devastation that quickly enveloped my community, my family, and my own heart. I could describe in length the pain-filled sleepless nights, or the harsh and numb daylight hours spent in shock, but looking back now, all I can see is love, love that was poured in from all corners of the earth.
The charitable and compassionate reaction from within and without our community was immediate. Phone calls from friends began pouring in, along with comfort quilts, flowers, banners and letters from strangers across the globe, expressing their condolences for our grief. One of the most significant acts of charity arrived in the form of a meal prepared by our friends from church. It was Wednesday when our friends arrived with food for my family to eat, after we had been too devastated to cook for two days. Luckily I was able to find this same kind of compassion when I began my freshmen year of college, a brief four months after my life was changed forever. As I struggled to acclimate to a college life far away from the family and community I had grown so close to, I was blessed with kind and considerate friends who nurtured me through the every day reality of the effects of going through a traumatic event. They sat with me as I sobbed, they listened as I retold my horrors, and they hugged me silently as I relived my tragedy.
It has been a year and a half now since that fateful day of April 16, 2007. Not a day passes that I do not remember the terrible actions of one angry and disturbed man. However, I can now firmly say that I believe in the human race. I believe in our ability to pull together in the face of devastating tragedy and reach out to those who are hurt more deeply than we could ever imagine. I believe in the courage of heroes faced with immediate death. I believe in sensitive strangers who I will never meet. I believe in the enduring human will. I believe in the human ability to endure the refiner’s fire. I believe in the goodness that resides in all of our hearts.
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