Thursday, April 17, 2008

A year ago life changed

there are a few dates that will always stick in my mind, no matter what. some are happy, others not so much. For example, the births of each of my kids, my wedding day, the day i got sealed in the temple, the day Jo had a seizure and i thought he was dying, Sept. 11, 2001, April 16, 2007.....
April 16, 2007. Cold, wintry day. Surprised, as the day before hadn't been nearly that cold.
April 16, 2008. Warm and beautiful. Kids wore shorts to school. A lot has changed in the 365 days between these two very different days. This April, I didn't worry about where John was, but I recall the panic I felt last year when his emails went unanswered, how news was slow to reach the radios even though we already knew about the shootings (our preschool was on lock down at 9 am, due to my boss being on campus during the dorm shootings), and was anxious as to where he was, as he had gone to campus at 4 am to study for some big tests he had that day. I had planned to shop for a graduation gift for him there at the campus bookstore, but changed my plans and ran errands in C'burg instead, as I still didn't know where the shootings had been or had bad it might be. Standing in line at a store, it was announced the shootings had been in a dorm, relief FLOODED over me. He wouldn't have been anywhere near a dorm. Only a few minutes later, the emergency system at tech starts announcing a gunman loose on campus, lock down. the radios picked it up instantly: stay away from windows, lock your doors, get inside. the relief instantly disappeared. I had to pull into a Sonic so that the dozens of emergency vehicles could pass to head to campus. I felt as if I was drowning in fear. John called a few minutes later, telling me he had been in the building 2 doors down from Norris and a friend had gotten a text telling them to leave campus. John left class, passing Norris again, and made it off campus right as campus was sealed. he passed swarms of empty police cars, and turned a corner as police were swarming on. He had been one of the lucky ones that morning to have escaped lock down. I felt so much better, and was calmer as I drove back into Blacksburg. My kids were all locked down at their schools, so I headed home to see John, and begin phoning friends and family, making sure the ones we knew were on campus were ok at the moment, and answering calls telling everyone we were ok. When I left at noon to go get M from preschool, Blacksburg was a ghost town. the only ones out were moms in minivans picking up from preschool, and abandoned cop cars blocking off all streets leading to campus. a friend called as I was driving to get M who worked as a nurse at a Roanoke hospital. She was being prepared for 20 dead. I was sure she was wrong, as radios were only announcing 6 fatalities at that point. At noon, a conference was called, confirming that horrible news. friends who could see Norris from their rooms mentioned later how the police came out immediately, bringing only a few out with them, and they assumed it wasn't that bad, not realizing the police left the victims inside, as there was nothing to be done for them.

Within hours, our beautiful, quiet town turned into a media circus, full of nosy, intrusive and downright rude reporters. Though they were not at all that way, being in Blacksburg that week was like living in a bubble, where the only thing you see, talk about or hear about is the shootings. You couldn't walk downtown to get food without being interviewed. It has been wonderful this year to recognize how peaceful and quiet our town really is, so I guess that is a blessing in disguise.
A year ago, this was the victims memorial. 32 individual sites in a semi-circle on the drill field. A student added a final one for Cho.
A year ago tonight, the boys, John and I gathered for an emotional candle light ceremony. (the boys used theirs as light sabers, causing many around them to smile) chanting lets go hokies, and hearing one amazing voice sing amazing grace, the American flag being raised and the sound of taps are the memories from that night. It was so spiritual, as all ages gathered together to remember, pray, cry, embrace.

A year ago our campus was covered with loving memorials, pictures, poems, and flowers for us. It was a beautiful outpouring of support as people from all over the WORLD sent us pictures, memories of their Virginia tech, and love in general. I have never in my life witnessed something like that before. Who knew what so much good and love can come from something so black, cold, and hateful. You hear all the time that it does, and pray you never have to see it first hand, but it a beautiful uplifting experience.
a year ago my young boys learned what it meant to pull together as a town, to see adults cry, and to know in their hearts what it means to be part of a community, proud of their town, and have a love for everyone around them. A year ago my boys got to hold hands with strangers, help them laugh, sign banners, learn how violent crime ruins lives, and they learned what suicide means. Though they didn't understand at the time, they have grown more this year, and continue to understand things they saw last year, and how 1 person can influence for good or evil.

a year ago, we walked campus, and saw blood on the sidewalk, police tape on the buildings and ribbons on all the trees. A year ago we froze when we heard sirens, and panicked when there were more then 2 or 3 at a time. A year ago we learned to respect all first responders, to thank police officers, EMT, fire fighters and red cross workers whenever we saw them, a practice that still happens here.
a year ago i watched the Bushes helicopter land as they came to grieve with our town.

Today, this is what stands at the memorial site, 32 beautiful "hokie stone" boxes. Today people gather to pay respects, leave flowers, and remember the darkest day in our town.
today, wearing our hokie united shirts, we gather together as a town and embrace the year of healing and the hope we feel. We welcome the new classes as they bring an innocence back to our town, but mourn as the older classes leave us, taking their memories to their next homes.
today 32 flags fly on main street, one for each victim with their home place represented. It is a beautiful tribute. I am always sad when it goes down, and was grateful to see the flags flying again yesterday, as we celebrate the 1 year anniversary. yes, celebrate. It has been an amazing year. more love has been shown to our town then one can imagine. The world is still a good place. to quote Nikki Giovanni:
"We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on. We are embracing our mourning. We are Virginia Tech... We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imagination and the possibilities, we will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this sadness, we are the Hokies. We will prevail, we will prevail, we will prevail. We are Virginia Tech."

and we have. we prevailed. we are proud to be hokies.
other news of great excitement to our family:
T turned 8 at the end of march. He started cub scouts when he turned 8, and earned his first badge in 1 week! Congrats T on your bobcat award!

Doesn't he look great in his uniform!!

getting his badge at pack meeting.

pinning mom

oh, and 1 more thing:

baby TBA, due Oct 08, and we are not telling anyone the gender, so you will have to wait!!!!