Beamer: “We’re Not Going To Take It”by Roland Lazenby
Planet Blacksburg Faculty Adviser
April 18, 2007
Frank Beamer was in his office overlooking Lane Stadium Monday morning when, like many other members of the community, he first got word about the shootings at West Ambler-Johnston.
And like many others, he faced a day of worsening news reports, most of them provided by his longtime administrative assistant John Ballein, who was following the story on television.
Beamer had a staff meeting at 11, and while Virginia Tech’s head coach was gathered with his staff, Ballein ducked in to tell them that the violence had spread, that several more people had been shot.
Then the reports reached that bizarre level. As many as 20, then 30 victims?
That couldn’t happen. Not in Frank Beamer’s Blacksburg.
“I grew up right down the road from here (in Carroll County),” he said Wednesday. “I went to school here. I’ve been here 20 years as a coach.”
This has long been his town, and Beamer made it known in an interview with planetblacksburg.com Wednesday afternoon, that he’s not about to cede it to any killer.
“We can’t let one person destroy what goes on here every day, the caring, the thoughtfulness. We can’t let one person destroy that. Now we’re in this together,” he said, throwing his arms wide in one of his trademark gestures.
“We’ve got to make this place tighter, closer, more respectful. Better.”
The magnitude of Monday’s killings quickly eclipsed things as mundane as football. Yet it wasn’t lost on Beamer that the crowd turned to the familiar chant “Let’s Go Hokies” during emotional memorial services on campus Tuesday.
“I think there’s a spirit here,” he said. “This guy (the killer) certainly disgraced our school and hurt some innocent, brilliant, smart, great people, people who didn’t deserve to die.
“For people to think of Virginia Tech and think of that, I’m not going to take it. We’re not going to take it.”
The coach seized on the words and spirit expressed by English professor and poet Nikki Giovanni in closing the memorial service at Cassell Coliseum.
The hardest part for the coach was the ushering in of victims’ families for that service. “When those families walked in, that just broke your heart,” he said. “I think what Nikki Giovanni said was so appropriate. We’ve been hurt, but we’re not going to take this. We’re going to come back and live every day at Virginia Tech the way that we do.” He expressed confidence that his players will take their part in leading that community spirit.
The first step in that was his decision to cancel the spring game, which he pointed out was “only practice.”
“I just didn’t feel like us practicing was what needed to take place. Our guys are hurting too.”
The sad, strange turn of events didn’t allow time for Beamer to meet with his players this week, he said. “Every (assistant) coach has been in touch with his players to make sure they’re okay. We’ll get together as a group next Monday. We’ve got to be the leaders of this, to help this community heal.”