Community Watched Convocation in Lane Stadiumby Omar Maglalang and Tricia Sangalang
News Staff Writers
April 17, 2007
The crowd standing on the sidewalk silenced early Tuesday afternoon. Many looked down Spring Road, which was blockaded by two motorcycles and an armored state police car, and wondered what was happening. Muffled whispers circulated in the crowd that President Bush was on his way, but a few minutes later police informed the crowd to enter Lane Stadium to proceed to gate 6.
At that moment, people from both sides of the street flocked towards the gates. Inside, it was a sea of orange and maroon. Many students, parents, administrators, and people all over the state, country and even the world sat on the bleachers, while others sat on the dirt ground of Worsham Field.
Many had somber faces. Many were filled with hope, and others seemed afraid and helpless after the massacre of 32 people the day before.
“The events yesterday were just unpredictable,” said Rebecca Greer, an interdisciplinary studies major at Virginia Tech. “It was tragic, but I was very happy that so many people went to the convocation. I thought people might be afraid after what happened, but I think we‘ve come out as a community to support each other in this tragic time.”
Anna Rizzo, a freshman in university studies, also felt that the response by the community showed how much everyone had been affected by the shootings.
“It‘s going to take a lot of time, and it‘s going to take a while to understand why something like this had happened,” she said. “It‘s shocking, and it hasn‘t set in really.”
Like many people who attended the convocation, Greer felt helpless and came to the convocation because she felt that she could do something to show support for the Hokie community.
“I was really hoping for a lot of people to come together when I decided to come here (to the convocation),” said Greer. “From being here at Virginia Tech for a while, people here have this sense of community and they just come together during tragic times like these, like, for example, with sporting events, or even the Morva situation last year.”
Along to support the Virginia Tech community in the convocation, several religious groups also gathered to pay respects to the deceased victims and offer grief counseling.
Gerry Scott, from Winston-Salem, NC, a volunteer minister from the Church of Scientology, brought over about 20 members to the convocation Tuesday afternoon.
“We‘re here to help out any way we can,” he said. “If someone needs to talk to someone, or if someone needs to just yell at someone, we‘re here to help.”
Joe Lyons, a youth pastor in Christiansburg, held a large cross in front of Cassell Coliseum and came to the event to bring a symbol of hope for the community.
A member of their church was shot in Norris Hall Monday.
“He was shot in the head and near the spine,” said Lyons. “He‘s doing well and doctors have removed both bullets that went through his body. He‘s coming home today.
“And it‘s a miracle!”
Lyons thought this morning that this incident could have happened in any community. It could happen to any college because of the freedoms in the U.S.
“I felt numb yesterday as this was all unfolding,” he said. “It‘s beyond what I could imagine that could happen in this area.”
Fred Smith came all the way from Atlanta, Ga., and had been to many tragic events over the years such as 9-11 and the Oklahoma City bombing.
Scott offered up grief counseling to help students deal with the incident.
“We‘ll talk to people if they want it,” he said. “If they want a cup of coffee, hey, we‘ll do that. Whatever it takes to give people hope.”