As you've surely noticed, we haven't gone into the Virginia Tech horrors too much around these parts; we felt we had nothing we could possibly add to something so unfathomable. But there are still ways the tragedy has touched our little world over here.
First, the Nationals all wore Virginia Tech hats last night, though we wonder how much comfort anyone can possibly take from Dmitri Young. In addition, it turns out that one of the victims, Brian Bluhm, was a Tigers fan and one of the frequent posters at MotownSports.com; he had been set to graduate in two weeks.
And even closer to home: As some of you might know, Nick Dallamora, one of the three geniuses behind The Dugout, is a student at Virginia Tech and a resident of the Ambler Johnston dorm where the initial shooting happened. Nick is fine, if obviously shaken (The Dugout is taking a few days off), and has been writing about the experience at The Fanhouse. We've been emailing with Nick the last few days, and he accepted our invitation to write about the experience in Blacksburg. His words are after the jump.
When Monday's incidents unfolded nothing hit like hearing those numbers climb so drastically. I remember seeing Fox News report 30 deaths and saying to my roommate "This is why I hate Fox News they always blow numbers out of proportion. Change it." When CNN reported 32, I checked MSNBC, who reported 33. It felt like my head had been frozen for 10 years and was just now decaying. How many? Are you sure?
It sounds cliche, but it wasn't until [Tuesday] that everything began sinking in. Prior to today's convocation I cursed that messed-up bastard to everyone I talked to, and in the few spare moments I had to myself I cursed him under my breath. The fiery hate in my chest masked what I should have been feeling, which was sorrow. I was pissed at how a demented psychopath could walk behind me on my way to class, bear left and kill 30 kids at no expense of his own. What kind of messed up world is it where you aren't safe in a small southern college town? I was pissed at society as a whole, like we could all have been that twisted and it just happened to be that guy's day. That was until today.
Today I saw what I eyeballed at 20,000+ people in attendance at the convocation. When the basketball stadium filled they overflowed us into Lane Stadium where we covered the playing field and stands. We were all either in suits, dresses, or our Saturday's best. It was the only time I can remember feeling overdressed in mesh shorts, a football jersey and a cap. We shared, we cried, and we patted each other on the shoulder with a solemn nod. For 24 hours we were all lost, but today we came back together to support each other.
It was there that Nikki Giovanni gave the most spine-tingling speech I have ever heard. She ended with:
We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid. We are better than we think, not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imagination and the possibility we will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this sadness. We are the Hokies! We will prevail, we will prevail! We are Virginia Tech!
The crowd absolutely blew up. I think we all realized just what being a Hokie meant at that point. It's not that we didn't know before, but yesterday it changed and it won't ever be the same again. Being a Hokie means being strong, supporting and helping those around you through adversity, and knowing the rest of us are here for you when things get too heavy.
We are the Hokies and we will prevail.