1 Year After Rampage, Va. Tech Remembers

(CBS/AP) A sea of people wearing orange and maroon flowed onto the main lawn at Virginia Tech on Wednesday, some clutching single roses, to remember the victims of worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

They gathered on the same field where a white candle lit at midnight began a day of mourning for the 32 people killed a year ago by a student gunman who killed himself as police closed in.

"We remain deeply and profoundly saddened by the events of that tragic day...," Virginia Tech President Charles Steger told the crowd. "Indeed, all our lives were changed on that day."

While this close-knit campus of 27,000 has worked hard to move on, the anniversary of the killings has left many struggling to cope. Some weren't sure how best to honor the dead.

"It's like a big question mark," said Heidi Miller, 20, a sophomore from Harrisonburg who was shot three times and was one of six survivors in a French class. "Should we be in mourning all day, or should we try to do something normal?"

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine ordered state flags flown at half-staff, and a statewide moment of silence at noon followed by the tolling of bells. A candlelight vigil was set for the evening.

Smaller, reflective gatherings were to take place during the day. One group of students planned to lie down in protest of Virginia's gun laws.

Some family members of victims entered War Memorial Chapel early Wednesday for a private service. Other family members of those killed said they couldn't bear to attend the official events and planned to grieve privately.

Bryan Cloyd, whose daughter Austin was killed, hopes to plant an oak tree with his wife Renee to honor their daughter's life. It is a way of looking toward the future, he said, rather than reflecting on the horrors of last April 16.

As a Virginia Tech professor and Blacksburg resident, Cloyd has faced reminders of his daughter every day. He believes Austin would want the community to honor her life, but then move forward.

"I won't be able to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding. I won't be able to bounce her children on my knee," he said softly. "And I don't think it's helpful to dwell on that, because where that leads is just more sadness. I think what's helpful to do is to dwell on what can be. What can we do with what we have?"

Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was shot but survived, was just hoping to make it through the day.

"It's just so emotional for everybody," she said before the tribute to those lost. "The kids - you're just so worried about them and think `Are they reliving those moments?"'

Commemorations of those who were killed started Tuesday. A small bouquet of white carnations lay outside Norris Hall, where gunman Seung-Hui Cho and 30 others died. Other mementoes appeared at the ring of 32 memorial stones placed months ago on the main lawn.

"It's been difficult at times. The nightmares and reliving flashbacks and other things," said Derek O'Dell, who was shot in the arm in his German class. He told CBS News there were 13 people in his class, and five didn't survive.

"I try and not let this event define me. It's tough to not be defined by tragedy, especially when you are in the news as much as I might be," O'Dell said. "It's difficult for people who might not have known me prior to April 16th to learn who Derek O'Dell is. Hopefully I will eventually reach all of my aspirations in life and become a great veterinarian and hopefully change the world for the better, and hopefully become remembered for that, and not just as a survivor."

No public memorials were planned for Cho.

Gerald Massengill, who led a governor-appointed panel that investigated the slayings, has tried to focus his thoughts on the changes that have been made to the state's mental health system and school security procedures in light of the panel's recommendations.

"I think a lot of us have been anticipating April the 16th with some reservations as to how it would impact us," he said. "And I think as it's gotten closer, what I have tried to consume myself with are those things ... the lessons that we think we could learn from Virginia Tech."


Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email: feedback@wibw.com
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 17828904 - wibw.com/a?a=17828904
Gray Television, Inc.