Viewed From Afar, Tech Has Stood Tallby Caroline Epley
April 17, 2007
DIJON, France - The Hokie Nation is a network of people, thoughts and feelings that spans worldwide. As a Virginia Tech student studying in Dijon, France, far away from my friends, family and fellow Hokies, I hope to convey the sympathy the world has for Virginia Tech from a different perspective.
The point of studying abroad is to get out of one's comfort zone to see the world from a different perspective. While tragedy has struck Virginia Tech, I daresay that my safe nest in Blacksburg is not out of its comfort zone. The Virginia Tech community is stepping up to fulfil the role of comfort zone with grace and compassion.
Thousands of miles away, I watched the ceremony this evening and I saw my school from an outsider's perspective. I watched in awe as my fellow Hokies rallied in Cassell Coliseum to create an arena of strength.
Cassell is a familiar place where I've arranged to meet friends for a run, sung the National Anthem and attended many sporting events. I'll never forget getting my student number at Orientation and sitting in Cassell before my freshman year. Cassell has always been a special place, but today, Cassel was more than a building. It was a safe haven, a sanctuary, a mosque, a synagogue, a nation and a world of people who were joined because of great tragedy. Cassell was transformed to a nexus of grief and hope for the human condition.
While my friends and family struggle to regain the lost sense of things normal, I feel as though there is no way for me to console them from across the Atlantic Ocean. I found, however, that my brother was sharing the same sentiments from on campus. He wrote to me in an e-mail today, "I'm not sure quite what to do about all this, but I'll throw on my VT sweatshirt and wander around with my fellow Hokies, searching for some comfort, right?"
I walked back to my residence in Dijon, France, and put on my VT sweatshirt and watched the ceremony with the only other Hokie in miles, my roommate. We've grieved the tragedy here in France together, but we haven't been alone. I found out about the tragedy first from a French student here who will attend Virginia Tech in the fall. Yesterday he wrote to me in a message, "Even though I have never set foot in Blacksburg, I feel the painâ€¦" The international students, professors and community here have reached out to share their condolences for Virginia Tech.
Even greater than the worldwide support we have is the internal support that only Hokies understand. Before the tragedy that occurred Monday morning, Virginia Tech was well-known and highly honored for its athletics as well as its academics. I wish that the media that have descended on Blacksburg was lauding our engineering department for its excellence or once again revving up for a ranked football game.
What I would like to extend to my friends, family and fellow Hokies, is that the recent tragedies and reactions are more than just actions and feelings. The world has been brought together by the fact that this could have happened to anyone at any school. The thing is though, this happened to my school, and Virginia Tech isn't just any school. Our mascot is the Hokie.
One of my favorite stories about Virginia Tech is how the Hokie mascot developed. A Hokie is an imaginary creature that evolved through tradition. We were once the Fighting Gobblers but over time as Virginia Tech fans continued a "Hokies" cheer at our football victories, our community adopted a new identity created through pride and victory. The idea of a Hokie is beyond definition or limitation. In this point of great grief and trial, I ask my friends, family, and fellow Hokies to further define this mascot, this idea, and this Hokie nation as something even stronger than it was.