Virginia Tech Remembers Campus Shooting
Five years after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, students were headed to class Monday at Virginia Tech for the first year that the university hasn't suspended instruction in memory of the 2007 massacre which left 32 people dead.
Provost Mark McNamee, who led the committee which organized memorial events for the years following the shooting, said the decision to have students return to attending class on the anniversary of the rampage is a reflection of the lives of those killed.
"Their passion for education, their desire to do good in the world, their commitment to their disciplines come through so strongly that we felt being in classes was one special way of remembering them onward," McNamee said. "This is what they did, this is what we do, and it's important to us.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell previously issued a proclamation naming April 16 as Virginia Tech Remembrance Day. The proclamation read in part that it honors the 32 lives which were "hastily taken, leaving absences that will never be filled and a profound sense of sorrow in the lives of those impacted."
For the five year anniversary of the shooting, the governor is scheduled to address a candlelight vigil at 7:30 on the Drillfield, located at the heart of the Blacksburg campus.
The anniversary will also be acknowledged in other ways at Virginia Tech, with events planned throughout the day.
At 12 a.m. a candle was lit in memory of the 32 victims and was scheduled to be guarded by the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets for 32 minutes prior to it being extinguished at midnight.
At 9:43 a.m., which is the time when gunman Seung-Hui Cho began his rampage at Norris Hall, Gov. McDonnell called for a statewide moment of silence. It was followed by the Capitol Square Bell Tower in Richmond ringing once for each victim.
Scheduled campus events also included a community picnic on the Drillfield and a display of memorial items sent to the university from other colleges.
Locations on campus have also been designated as "quiet places for reflection."
Norris Hall, where Cho began his shooting rampage and also where he killed himself, had a scheduled open house. The building which was formerly classrooms has been converted into the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention.
The peace center was created "to transform a place of pain, suffering and violence that can prevent future violence," and promotes "nonviolent compassionate communication" techniques, according to director James Hawdon.
Provost McNamee survivors and parents of students killed five years ago have been involved with the planning committee for anniversary events.
McNamee said their main concern was that the shooting would be forgotten over time, so they created community events such as a 3.2-mile run --which was held over weekend-- that involved 6,800 participants.
In another effort to ensure the 2007 shooting would not be forgotten, Virginia Tech survivor Colin Goddard along with other gun control advocates, planned to begin two days of lobbying Congress on Monday. Goddard's documentary, "Living for 32," is also planned to be viewed on college campuses nationwide.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.