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The Drill Field

This time the television cameras were gone. The networks that had sensationalized the Virginia Tech tragedy had moved on. NBC, which had seen fit to provide a forum for the deranged rants of a murderous madman, didn’t seem to find Saturday’s events newsworthy. Maybe it was just as well. The last thing many of us would have wanted was yet another camera and microphone shoved in our face.

There was a gathering at Virginia Tech last Saturday. Thousands of students, alumni, faculty and friends of Virginia Tech gathered on the Drill Field to pay homage to the slain and wounded and begin the healing process. Hokies young and old roamed the centerpiece of Tech’s campus, viewing the many moving tributes, talking with one another and mostly enjoying just being there. The power that is Virginia Tech had drawn us home.

A clown on the CBS early news program had opined earlier in the week that he could not imagine why anybody would want to attend Virginia Tech now. He should have been there; maybe he could have figured it out.

I was able to see a number of good friends, beginning shortly after noon with lunch at the Hokie House restaurant on Main Street. It had once been a favorite hangout of mine, but a place where I have spent very little time in the last few decades.

A few of us gathered in the commuter parking lot, a place where the Clubhouse Tailgate had spent a few years enjoying happier moments. Glasses were raised to salute a lot of things.

I had not been in the chapel of the War Memorial since 1974. Hopefully, the mental promise I made to myself after walking through to visit this place again very soon will be kept.

I saw a number of friends on the Drill Field, including a current student who was much closer to the events of 4/16 than I had been. Hopefully Joanna is back in class this Monday and beginning to move forward with her education.

I saw a Virginia Tech police officer who is a good friend of the Clubhouse Tailgate. He had been among the first to react to events and had been on the job for 28 ½ straight hours from Monday morning and had been working 12-14 shifts every day since. The amount of affection and respect I have for Morgan Millirons and his fellow officers is enormous. Very good people were thrust into an extraordinary situation and my opinion remains that they performed heroically.

Mostly I saw Hokies. Most dressed in the school colors. There were a few tears and a lot of laughter. There was much conversation. It was paying tribute to the school we so love in the best way we knew how.

It was also about moving forward. While the news media has moved on, Virginia Tech will continue. Classes have resumed, the campus attempting to again function normally.

And it will. Saturday’s gathering was about moving forward. The dead will continue to be mourned and memorialized. There will be a graduation ceremony in a few weeks that will no doubt be a very emotional time. The first football game on 9/1 will prove likewise. Things will go on.

To me, Nikki Giovanni has best captured the spirit and feelings of all the Hokies that were on the Drill Field last Saturday and those not able to attend. Virginia Tech will not be defined by the scenes of police officers in front of Norris Hall. It will not be defined by the pictures of students under the worst kind of stress. Tech will not be defined by the sensationalized rants of a crazed gunman.

Virginia Tech will be defined by its family, the students, alumni, faculty staff and friends of the university. We will carry this school past this suffering and on into the future. We are Virginia Tech.

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