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Commentary: Tech Bonds Together to Support President Steger and Chief Flinchum

by Kirsten Gravely
Contributing Writer
April 23, 2007

IMG_1178.JPG As sad a day as April 16, 2007 was, and still is, Tech is moving forward. Not, however, without supporting those who strived to protect all of us. Chief Wendell Flinchum of the Virginia Tech Police Department and Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger have done wonders for our community.

After this tragedy, many of the students were filled in on what was happening minute by minute thanks to Chief Flinchum and President Steger. I do not feel any anger at this point towards those who have put them through the ringer, however, I would like for them to understand something. Nobody could have anticipated what happened to our peaceful community.

Though some may be frustrated with the procedures used by the University and the Police, we all need to be thanking them. The parents that still have their children and loved ones can, and have, shown their undying appreciation for everything that Steger and Flinchum have done for us in protecting their loved ones. Those parents that lost children, or the friends that lost friends and loved ones; appreciation is still shown to Steger and Flinchum for doing everything they could have done, making our bond as a Hokie Nation even more united.

The media has done good reporting here, yet they have also frustrated some of the student body. Questions about security measures that the school takes, what was not done on April 16th, and questioning Steger or Flinchum’s methods angered some of the student body.

The issue at hand here, and the only issue, is that 33 lives were lost on April 16, 2007. A young man was sick and needed help, and did not receive that help, leading to this awful nightmare that fell upon our campus. I have never felt anything except safe here at Virginia Tech. That is not without saying that many of the reporters that have shown up on campus have been kind and thoughtful regarding this tragedy. Yes, many are angry towards him, myself included. It is hard to fathom that someone was capable of doing what this young man did.

As a student at Tech, I will say that I share one frustration with many, and that is that students were not notified earlier of the first shooting. That said, people are human, and they make mistakes. Our officials did everything they could, and everything they deemed necessary during the crisis. They are mourning just as we all are and need our support. I hand delivered a poster that some friends and I created for Chief Flinchum when I saw him going into Burruss Hall earlier this week. Needless to say, it made me feel an incredible sense of pride that I am a Hokie, and Flinchum’s look of appreciation when I handed it to him put both of us on the verge of tears. He gave me a great hug as he told me how much he appreciated our support, and I am happy I can say I made him smile in a time that not many smiles have been had. Posters were also made for both President Steger and the Virginia Tech staff.

President Steger has been incredibly concerned about his students, as we have all seen through our e-mails and his announcements. He has the student body’s best interests at heart, and we appreciate him more than words can say. The message here is that in this time of darkness, the only thing that can make it light is constant support from family, friends, and loved ones.

President Steger, Chief Flinchum and the staff of Virginia Tech: You are all greatly appreciated for everything you have done and the support you have given us, and we will move forward. As Nikki Giovanni said, “We are the Hokies. We will prevail, we will prevail. We are Virginia Tech.” Our hearts will mend, our tears will dry, but our memory will never be erased of what happened on April 16, 2007.

Comments (11)

I'm glad to see this article. I thought you and your readers might want to check this out. Here is a link to a petition to show support for President Steger and Chief Flinchum:

Amy | April 23, 2007 10:46 AM

I am following your event through your web page. I signed the "Wall" and would like to comment on this issue also. How your good people (Steger and Flinchum) kept their cool is beyond me. They were by far the most professional administrators I have seen in a long time. It's always easy to second guess someone else's actions and some folks just don't get the clear picture. I think The President and Chief did an outstanding job and made intelligent decisions based on the information at hand. Once again, God bless each and every one of you.

garnet fowler | April 23, 2007 4:56 PM

I agree with you. Nice job everyone of you involved in this! Yes, you will prevail!!

Wendy from Kentucky | April 24, 2007 12:56 AM

Thank you, Kirsten Gravely for your well spoken expression of compassion and wisdom. I am a near 60 y/o nurse living on the Calif Coast. I watched the events of 4/16/7 through tears and sometimes anger. Like you, I felt very frustrated with the press and their seeming intent to blame and accuse. As a nurse, I have been in many crisis situations involving large numbers of people where I was 'in charge'. Those situations pale compared to what your President and Police Chief walked into that morning. No doubt that the finger pointers have never been in their shoes or close to them.
Thru all the tears and grief I want to say that not only did your leaders act admirably but you and your classmates at VT have given the world hope for a new generation; a generation so much more mature and sane and sober; a generation with courage and resilience, with creative energy and well grounded pride; a generation with focus and faith. There will be more sorrow in days to come for all of us. But you all have shown us how to have joy and hope in the times between. Your tears are watering the flowers of your hearts and give me hope for a better world to come.
Thank you all the Hokie Nation!!! Blessings on each of you.

Mary McCurry | April 24, 2007 1:25 AM

God Bless all of you. Becky from Ohio

Becky from Ohio | April 25, 2007 6:37 PM

God Bless all of you. Becky from Ohio

Becky from Ohio | April 25, 2007 6:38 PM

Anyone who thinks that the university handled this well probably thought that the government did a good job during Hurricane Katrina.
Don't let school spirit keep you from thinking and speaking honestly. They let classes go on with a killer known to be on the loose. He then went into classes and killed random students. It could have been anyone that died that day because everyone went to class blindly since the university didn't let them know anything about a killer being on the loose.
They messed up.

Andrew from VA | April 25, 2007 11:07 PM

Andrew, if they locked down at 8am, he would have been locked down in his dorm with all of those innocent students. He was going to kill regardless or who, when, or where.

Amy | April 26, 2007 9:03 AM

This is true but it still doesn't not sit well with me that the university did not let anyone know about the first shooting.

Andrew from VA | May 1, 2007 1:39 PM

This is true but it still doesn't sit well with me that the university did not let anyone know about the first shooting.

Andrew from VA | May 1, 2007 1:39 PM

Andrew...I realize there is much anger over how things were handled and I believe this is due to the current notion that somebody must be held accountable for all tragedies and accidents (most likely so they can be sued). This person was a student and had access on campus just like the rest of the students. A lockdown would not have stopped him. When the campus was put on lockdown, students still milled right outside Norris Hall as shown in the news coverage of officers responding. My daughter is a Junior at Tech...we drove down the day of the shooting. I have a very big interest in the way administration handles the student's safety. Let's put the blame where it belongs - squarely on the shoulders of the sick and disturbed individual who did the shooting. I am personally sick to death of society's litigious view of accidents and tragedies. Who's to blame? The murderer (I will not speak his name). Not his parents, nor teachers, nor President Steger, nor the Blacksburg Police.

Denise Lacy | September 1, 2007 3:09 PM