11 Years After the Virginia Tech Shooting: a Reflection
I feel like I never graduated. April 16, 2007 changed the lives of many at Virginia Tech after a troubled student took the lives of 32 of his classmates and teachers. I was taking a Geology test at the time. I remember having a bad case of Senioritis. So bad that the night before the shooting, having skipped Geology for almost two weeks straight, I saw the syllabus reminding me of my test and thought with passion, "I would do anything for this semester to be over..." My passionate thought was answered in the cruelest of ways, a seldom confessed fact that has burned regret in my brain.
After the test was completed, I remember going to the library to study for a Quantum Mechanics exam that I had coming up. As I entered the elevator, I saw a sign next to the doors that read something like..."there has been a shooting on campus, two people are in the hospital and a suspect is in custody." A man taking the elevator with me commented, "If they just allowed guns on campus, this would never happen." I remember thinking that he was right, but that the same was true if no one had a gun, those two arguments clearly cancel each other out. This began my exploration into the Public Health and Prevention Science world of research, which is why I work for Reaching Out to Other Together (ROOT) and The Least Recognized Gun Violence Expert in the United States of America, Kenny Barnes Sr.
After sometime in the library, my phone began to receive texts like wild fire. "Are you ok?" people asked me. "Of course," I replied. Didn't they know that it was a contained incident? Then there was an announcement that the library was shutting down and that we were not allowed to leave, there was an active shooter on campus. Several of the other students had laptops and began to watch the news feed. "9 dead at Virginia Tech," the reports said. "16 dead in a massive school shooting," came a little bit later. The number grew and grew. By the time they let us out, some two hours later, the number reached 28. By the time I walked home, it was 32. With the death of the shooter, the total death count became 33, with an additional 23 who were injured.
In the aftermath, we were told that our grades would not go below what they were at the time of the shooting. Counselors reached out to us to offer us free therapy. I graduated, but I feel like I didn't.