I Haven’t Always Been a Hokie

I haven’t always been a Hokie.

Growing up in Lynchburg left me at a fairly equal distance between VT and UVA, which forced me not to gravitate towards either one. I always felt like UVA was where the preppy, nouveau-riche kids went to feel more elite than they really were and that VT was where the husky farming boys went to get a Bachelor’s degree to milk cows. I never thought I’d end up at “big state school” and always saw myself at a local liberal arts college less than 20 miles down the road.

On April 16, 2007 I was in the seventh grade. Even though the tragedy was about an hour and forty minutes from me, I was completely desensitized to it. I heard about the 32 casualties and it was just a number to me. It felt like something that would happen in thrilling movie. I never read the headlines. I was not moved by the pictures. I went to church that Sunday and we said a long prayer, like one of the ones where you just want to fidget and open your eyes but my southern upbringing made me scared to take the chance. A girl from my church was a Tech student at the time. I didn’t know her that well, but I was glad she was okay.

My first experience with death was four days before my eighteenth birthday. It was a very good childhood friend. Car accident. Dead on impact. Just like that- she was gone. Her death hit me hard. I made sure I was scheduled to wait tables at Country Cookin’ the nights of her vigils and the day of her funeral. I didn’t want to watch the newscasts about the accident and my car never passed by the cement pole sticking out of the pavement on Mayflower Drive.

The rest of my last semester of high school lead me on a clueless search for where I wanted to spend the next four years. It was a random program for prospective minority students that persuaded me to give Virginia Tech a try. It was the second weekend of April and the Blacksburg weather couldn’t have been more perfect. We arrived on campus just as the Rec Sports program was wrapping up the annual 3.2 for 32 Run in Remembrance. Campus was covered in maroon and orange. Everyone was wearing the same shirt from the run. They were smiling. There were balloons in all of the trees.

My host for the program took me to the April 16th Memorial in front of Burruss Hall. Everything got very quiet and awkward. I didn’t get very close but I kept my eyes on the blocks of Hokie stone as we passed by it. I could tell that the memorial held significance to my host. Her voice grew weak as she continued her tour. The program helped me choose Virginia Tech because I felt a sense of unity that I didn’t get even from the smallest of colleges. I knew it had everything to do with the weekend I visited. In my freshman year, I would stare at the memorial curiously as I crossed the drillfield to get to each class. Never once did I ever dare to visit it.

April 15th came and all of my freshman friends seemed excited to go to the lighting of the ceremonial candle at midnight that night. I told them all I wasn’t going. “I don’t do things like that,” I would tell them. And I didn’t. I never had to. I didn’t want to put myself in a situation where I had to the think about death.

At 11:45, I suddenly got the urge to go. I ran. I remember thinking I would miss it. I ended up getting there in about two minutes. I didn’t see anyone I knew yet. I felt uncomfortable. I wanted to leave. I ended up meeting a group of people in my fraternity. They were four people that I didn’t know very well, but I immediately felt safe. I knew I would make it.

Approaching the Hokie stones made me anxious. Time felt like it stopped as my colleagues and I walked past each stone. Seeing the names engraved on the stones personified them. In those moments I realized the reality of the tragedy that I had been too blind to see six years before. I had never seen any of the victims, but while looking at their stones I felt attached to them. I finally realized what it truly meant to be a Hokie. I felt that pride and honor that I had witnessed during the minority program a year before. I was now one of those students I had seen. I was smiling through the pain. I had the t-shirt. I had released one of the balloons into the trees. After my first true April 16th experience, I stopped running from death. I acknowledged Stacia’s passing. I engaged myself in the news during other unfortunate tragedies instead of running from them. I forced myself to figure out how to stay strong in tragic situations.

Tonight marks my second April 16th as a true Hokie. As upsetting as it can be, I am empowered. I feel stronger than ever, even with the tears streaming down my face. There is no feeling like being a part of the Virginia Tech community. I might not have always been a Hokie, but I am now and I will be forever.

We are Virginia Tech.

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 strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech.

We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory, neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water, neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

We are Virginia Tech.

The Hokie Nation embraces our own and reaches out with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid. We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness.

We are the Hokies.

We will prevail.

We will prevail.

We will prevail.

We are Virginia Tech.


16 Things We Forget To Thank Our Moms For

I really enjoyed this… it really makes you think about all of the things moms do. My mom and I have always been extremely close and we’ve only grown closer in the last year or so since I left for college. I always think these lists are kind of corny, but this one was just sappy enough to make me think it was cute.

Thought Catalog

1. All the times she had to double as best friend/counselor/therapist/costume designer/hair stylist/coach/all-around-solver-of-every-problem-ever. I remain unconvinced that moms aren’t actually superheroes in disguise.

2. Forgiving us when we forget to call.

3. Listening to all our pointless dramas when we do remember.

4. Being the kind of person that we actually do want to become — because as we all know, it’s inevitable.

5. Having the incredible prowess only a mother whose babes have been scorned could — mama bear protects her cubs, sometimes excessively, but we love it, let’s be honest.

6. All those times we yelled “MOOOOMMM!!” through the house to find out where our white shirt was or what time so-and-so was getting home and all the other questions we just couldn’t go to Dad for.

7. All the things she reluctantly bought us at the cash register of any given store, all the clothes and things…

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It’s unbelievable knowing that this accident was two years ago. Stacia had been a great friend of mine since the 4th grade. We would both get to school really early and she would teach me little phrases in German. She always told me it was much more sophisticated than the English language so it was a necessity that I learned it quickly. She taught me what a girl’s period was way before Family Life class. One day, she brought red food coloring and we poured it all over our hands in a failed attempt to make everyone think we were zombies. At a sleepover we would tickle her little brother so much because she would laugh so hard and one time we tickled him until he puked all over our sleeping bags so we shared a recliner for the night. She was always fashion forward- even when we didn’t go to school together anymore I would see her around the mall and the movie theater dressed like she was fresh off of the red carpet. She prided herself on dressing for success.  The night before she died I had just seen her and she wished me a happy early birthday. Learning that she was gone the next morning was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to hear. I was in shock. I could barely utter the words out to my mom. It’s an unfortunate feeling that I don’t think I will ever forget.  Both Stacia and Bre were beautiful girls. I always think about them. I’m not the most religious, but I do believe that they are our guardian angels who watch over us everyday.

Friends Remember Stacia Anderson & Breanna Boyd