The April 16 slayings of 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech was particularly unnerving for UT Arlington senior Tova Charles. She considered attending the Blacksburg, Va., university out of high school.
“I was thinking that it could have been me or one of my friends,” said the management major from Austin.
The day after the shootings, Charles read a campuswide e-mail from President James D. Spaniolo expressing sympathy for the Virginia Tech community. She replied with an e-mail of her own, suggesting that UT Arlington hold a memorial service to remember the victims.
“I think it could bring the students together and help us cope with the senseless loss,” she wrote.
Three days later, her request became reality as more than 400 students, faculty and staff gathered on the Central Library mall to remember those killed and wounded. Many wore maroon and orange, Virginia Tech’s school colors, and signed banners and cards to be sent to the university.
“Today we are all Hokies,” Spaniolo said, referencing the Virginia Tech mascot. “But in our sorrow, we dare not fail to embrace what gives a university a distinctive spirit. Even in our darkest hours, universities empower through learning and the creation of knowledge.”
Student Congress President Zac Sanders said students should be able to feel safe on a campus but that the shootings left them fearful, angry and confused.
“I have personally been troubled with feelings of uselessness,” he said. “I can’t help but think about the futures, the hopes and the dreams that were lost. Then I realized that there is something I can do. I can remember. I can achieve my goals and aspirations in remembrance of the victims.”
Charles, who bought maroon and orange t-shirts to wear to the ceremony, was one of three students selected to lay a wreath near a large wooden VT logo made by history major Jered Little.
“I just don’t want it to be forgotten, or we’re doomed to repeat the same tragedy,” Charles said. “We showed our respect to Virginia Tech. We let them know that even though we’re in Texas, we still care about you and want you to know that you’re not alone.”
— Mark Permenter
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