College Community Stands United Behind Hokiesby Anthony Della Calce
April 20, 2007
Out of every tragedy, there is the hope for something good to be learned - something that will make us stronger, closer and better as people.
In the wake of the shootings here at Virginia Tech, Hokie Nation has indeed learned such a lesson. We have learned that we are not alone. And it’s a comforting feeling.
A maroon and orange bond has always run through the tight-knit community of Virginia Tech, which extends beyond Blacksburg, Va. to alumni, former faculty, former staff and anyone around the world with a Hokie connection. Not surprisingly, it is a bond that has been strengthened by the tragic events of April 16.
But, as unified Hokies lean on each other for support, Virginia Tech has discovered that colleges and universities nationwide have come together to offer their shoulders to lean on. The support has been nothing short of overwhelming - Virginia Tech’s website lists over 200 colleges who have sent their condolences.
Virginia Tech’s longtime rival, the University of Virginia, quickly rallied to show its support.
“Immediately upon hearing the news of the tragedy, it seems the grounds of UVA have transformed into unclear territory,” said Jodi Boradwater, a junior history major at Virginia, which is located in Charlottesville, Va. “What I mean is that by walking around the grounds, it’s unclear by appearance to tell where UVA’s loyalties lie. Our famous Beta Bridge, normally coated with thousands of layers of paint detailing upcoming events, was immediately painted maroon and orange with the words ‘Hoos for Hokies.’ The large Z painted on the steps of our amphitheatre, representing the famous secret society’s reign here on our grounds, is now painted half maroon, half orange.”
The University Mary Washington, located in Fredericksburg, Va., has also found unique ways to show its support for Virginia Tech.
“On Monday night, two different girls organized two different vigils,” said Joe Buonannata, a freshman double major in international affairs and Italian at Mary Washington. Buonannata said he went to both vigils, which each had about 100 people in attendance.
“I went to (one vigil),” he said, “and after about 10 minutes we were walking over to the fountain and we saw these other about 100 kids (at the other vigil). And it was amazing to see everyone come together - we wrapped around the entire Palmieri Plaza (the center point of campus). People were crying and singing and had their heads down, and after a moment of silence we took turns passing around an orange Gatorade mix and we got the fountain orange.”
UVA and Mary Washington are just two of several colleges in Virginia to unite behind fellow, in-state school Virginia Tech. In fact, on Thursday night colleges and universities throughout Virginia participated in a statewide candlelight vigil at 9 p.m. as a sign of solidarity with Virginia Tech. Also, in memory of the victims, Friday has been declared a day of mourning in Virginia.
“On Friday at noon, as part of the statewide day of mourning, (Mary Washington is) having a silent human chain all the way down campus walk, which is the main brick path down campus,” said Buonannata.
But, the support has extended far beyond the borders of Virginia. It flows, like a maroon and orange river, from coast to coast and everywhere in between.
It flows through California:
“Our President, Paul Locatelli, S.J. sent a letter of condolence to the president of Virginia Tech and the campus community on April 17th,” said Heather Hilton, a senior accounting major at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif. “Prayers of remembrance for the victims were given at the noon mass on the 17th and a prayer vigil will be taking place on April 22nd. A journal sharing thoughts and prayers for everyone affected will be sent to (Virginia Tech) the first week of May.”
It flows through Massachusetts:
“There’s been a great deal of support,” said Sam DeGiovanni, a sophomore economics major at Boston College. “We had an ecumenical prayer service eat 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday. There have been various resources available to students - ranging from peer ministry, counseling, and church services - and a mass Tuesday night at 7 p.m. where about 900 members of the BC community took part in the ACC-wide candlelight vigil.” The photo above is from that vigil.
It flows through the mountains:
“I know there was a candelight vigil (Wednesday) night and conversation gathering on campus,” said Lauren Bauer, a junior molecular, cellular and developmental biology major at Colorado University in Boulder, Colo.
It flows through the city:
“NYU is having a Vigil: A Time of Reflection and Solidarity,” said Justine Burr, a senior applied psychology major at New Yory University in New York City. NYU held its vigil on Thursday, April 19. Before it was held, Burr said, “The vigil will involve songs by student groups, prayer by our four religious clergy leaders, and time to silently reflect on the tragedy at Virginia Tech. At our campus, we will also be giving out white ribbons in remembrance.”
It flows through private universities:
“The day after the tragedy occurred, we held masses in our chapel in honor of the victims,” said Dina Gryk, a freshman nursing major at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. “Many classes were cancelled so that the students and teachers could attend. Everyone was talking about what happened and you could feel sadness and confusion in the environment. All of Sacred Heart’s thoughts and prayers are with VT, the victims, and their families.”
In an e-mail to his students, Rev. Peter M. Donohue, president of Villanova University, located in Philadelphia, said: “The Villanova University community is shocked and saddened by the monumental tragedy at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. We extend our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to everyone who was affected. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and the entire Virginia Tech community. On Tuesday, April 17, a mass was offered in memory of the victims and in solidarity with their family, friends, and members of the Virginia Tech community, all of whom have suffered greatly as a result of this tragedy.” This information comes courtesy of recent Villanova alumna Carrie Symnington.
It flows through public universities:
“(On Wednesday) night, WVU held a candlelight vigil in honor of the Va. Tech students who lost their lives,” said Ricky Beamer, a senior double major in aerospace and mechanical engineering at West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.Va. “(Wednesday) night they said that they are collecting notes and signatures to send to Tech.”
“Understandably, all of us up here at UConn have been touched by the tragedy that occured at Virgina Tech.” said Kim Orsulak, a senior double major in international relations and economics at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn. “... Campus officials have sent out numerous e-mails detailing opportunities to watch the memorial service, relaying information about a moment of silence, candlelight vigils, addressing the tragedy and extending counseling services to anyone in need. In gatherings over the week, students have continued to express their support, and rarely a moment has gone by where it has not been on our minds. Students have organized via Facebook to sell maroon/orange ribbons and wristbands as well as creating posters and cards to send to our fellow students at V. Tech.”
It even flows through university sporting events:
“Penn State is passing out shirts to form a VT zone at our (spring) football game this weekend,” said Anna Valvo, a senior neuroscience psycholgoy major at Penn State University in University Park, Pa. “This zone usually forms a giant S for State. The game is this Saturday and it starts at 2 p.m. There will also be a moment of silence at the beginning and I've heard things here and there about the band planning on doing something for VT as well.”
And it flows beyond U.S. borders, too:
“Our president has issued a statement of condolence on behalf of the faculty, staff and students,” said Amanda Cannarella, a senior double major in psychology and French language at McGill Univesity in Montreal. Directing her comments at the Virginia Tech community, Cannarella said, “Although the university itself has not scheduled a specific event to show support for your community, the students are certainly grieving with you. Please know you are all in our thoughts and we are sending you our sincerest best wishes in hopes of giving you more strength to cope with this tragedy.”
Many students have expressed sentiments similair to Cannarella’s on signed banners sent to Virginia Tech. Several colleges - Virginia Commonwealth University, Southern Illinois University, Eastern Carolina University and more - have already sent student-signed banners to Virginia Tech filled with supportive messages. Other colleges, some mentioned above and some mentioned below, have similar plans to send symbols of support.
“They’ve made a banner that many SU students have signed and will soon send to VT.” said Alica Landserg, a freshman at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y.
An e-mail sent to students at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth said: “In honor of a nation-wide ‘Today We Are All Hokies’ tribute, maroon and orange ribbons will be available and a condolences banner will be located in the Campus Center for signing throughout the day and will be mailed to our Virginia Tech friends and colleagues.” This information was provided by Whitnery Guttmann, a senior graphic design major at UMass Dartmouth.
“(Sacred Heart) will be wearing maroon and orange on Friday and at 11:30 a.m. we will take a group picture to symbolize our support,” said Gryk. Sacred Heart’s website says the picture will be sent to Virginia Tech “in memory of Monday’s events and in support of the families and friends of those who were lost.”
Moreover, Sacred Heart’s plans for students to wear maroon and orange on Friday are part of a nationwide “Orange and Maroon Effect Day.” The Virginia Tech community has invited everyone - not just college students - to join Hokies everywhere in wearing orange and maroon on Friday, April 20, as a symbol of unity in the wake of Monday’s tragedy.
Through promotion on Facebook, a social-networking site primarily used by college students, it seems this event has really caught on.
“I just joined an online Facebook event that says we will wear maroon and orange (on) Friday the 20th in memory of and support of the Virginia Tech community,” said Guttmann on Thursday afternoon.
Combining the members of two Facebook event groups, “Hokie Hope,” and “Orange & Maroon Effect Day,” so far nearly 37,000 people have signed up to participate in Friday’s tribute.
Facebook itself is participating, as a message posted on the site early Friday morning indicates: “To show our support for the entire Hokies community, we have changed the site colors (to maroon and orange) today for the members of the Virginia Tech network. The Facebook team extends its deepest sympathies to everyone at Virginia Tech.”
Clearly, the maroon and orange spirit has flooded college campuses across the country and in some cases, beyond that. The colors that were once considered colors only a Hokie could love have been embraced by college students everywhere.
“Countless students (at UVA) have donned Tech apparel the past few days,” said Broadwater, “and I find myself so content to be in this state of confusion as to which Virginia university I attend. It is certainly true that here at UVA, we Wahoos have proudly become Hokies.”
Indeed, many members of various college communities have proudly become Hokies. For the Virginia Tech community, it is a touching sign of unity. And in the aftermath of this tragedy, this show of unity reflects the hope that something good has been learned - something that will make us stronger, closer and better as people.
Author's Note: photo of Boston College vigil courtesy of BC website, photo of Mary Washington fountain courtesy of UMW website, photo of West Virginia vigil courtesy of WVU website, other two pictures courtesy of Facebook. The UConn/VT picture is UConn's version of a popular Facebook profile picture that has been created in the aftermath of Monday’s shootings. Students at other schools have been using the same picture but with their college’s logo.